Collection of JHorti) Caroliniana
THE COLONEL'S DREAM
OTHER BOOKS BY
CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
"The Conjure Woman "
" The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories "
" Life of Frederick Douglas,"
in Beacon Biographies
"The House Behind the Cedars"
" The Marrow of Tradition "
CHARLES W. CHESNUTT
Doubleday, Page & Company
Copyright, 1905, by
Doubleday, Page & Company
Published, September, 1905
All rights reserved, including that
of translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian
To the great number of those who are seeking, in what-
ever manner or degree, from near at hand or far away,
to bring the forces of enlightenment to bear upon the
vexed problems which harass the South, this volume is
inscribed, with the hope that it may contribute to the
same good end.
If there be nothing new between its covers, neither is
love new, nor faith, nor hope, nor disappointment, nor
sorrow. Yet life is not the less worth living because of
any of these, nor has any man truly lived until he has
tasted of them all.
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapter I 3
Chapter II 15
Chapter III 20
Chapter IV 31
Chapter V 39
Chapter VI 45
Chapter VII 57
Chapter VIII 62
Chapter IX 71
Chapter X 86
Chapter XI 91
Chapter XII 104
Chapter XIII ........ 108
Chapter XIV 121
Chapter XV 132
Chapter XVI 143
Chapter XVII 151
Chapter XVIII 155
Chapter XIX 168
Chapter XX 179
Chapter XXI 190
Chapter XXII 196
Chapter XXIII 202
Chapter XXIV 208
Chapter XXV 215
Chapter XXVI 220
Chapter XXVII 228
Chapter XXVIII 233
Chapter XXIX . . ... . . 241
Chapter XXX ........ 250
Chapter XXXI 255
Chapter XXXII 260
Chapter XXXIII 267
Chapter XXXIV 270
Chapter XXXV ....... 272
Chapter XXXVI 276
Chapter XXXVII 283
Chapter XXXVIII 287
Chapter XXXIX 290
LIST OF CHARACTERS
his former partners
Colonel Henry French, a retired merchant
Philip French, the colonel's son
Peter French, his old servant
Mrs. Treadwell, an old lady
Miss Clara Treadwell, her daughter
Graciella Treadwell, her granddaughter
Malcolm Dudley, a treasure-seeker
Ben Dudley, his nephew
Viney, his housekeeper
William Fetters, a convict labour contractor
Barclay Fetters, his son
Bud Johnson, a convict labourer
Caroline, his wife
Henry Taylor, a Negro schoolmaster
William Nichols, a mulatto barber
Haynes, a constable
THE COLONEL'S DREAM
TWO gentlemen were seated, one March morning in
189 — , in the private office of French and Com-
pany, Limited, on lower Broadway. Mr. Kirby,
the junior partner — a man of thirty-five, with brown hair
and mustache, clean-cut, handsome features, and an alert
manner, was smoking cigarettes almost as fast as he could
roll them, and at the same time watching the electric clock
upon the wall and getting up now and then to stride rest-
lessly back and forth across the room.
Mr. French, the senior partner, who sat opposite Kirby,
was an older man — a safe guess would have placed him
somewhere in the debatable ground between forty and
fifty; of a good height, as could be seen even from the
seated figure, the upper part of which was held erect with
the unconscious ease which one associates with military
training. His closely cropped brown hair had the slightest
touch of gray. The spacious forehead, deep-set gray eyes,
and firm chin, scarcely concealed by a light beard, marked
the thoughtful man of affairs. His face indeed might have
seemed austere, but for a sensitive mouth, which suggested
a reserve of humour and a capacity for deep feeling. A
man of well-balanced character, one would have said, not
apt to undertake anything lightly, but sure to go far in
whatever he took in hand; quickly responsive to a generous
impulse, and capable of a righteous indignation; a good
friend, a dangerous enemy; more likely to be misled by
the heart than by the head; of the salt of the earth, which
gives it savour.
4 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
Mr. French sat on one side, Mr. Kirby on the other, of
a handsome, broad-topped mahogany desk, equipped with
telephones and push buttons, and piled with papers,
account books and letter files in orderly array. In marked
contrast to his partner's nervousness, Mr. French scarcely
moved a muscle, except now and then to take the cigar
from his lips and knock the ashes from the end.
"Nine fifty!" ejaculated Mr. Kirby, comparing the
clock with his watch. "Only ten minutes more."
Mr. French nodded mechanically. Outside, in the
main office, the same air of tense expectancy prevailed.
For two weeks the office force had been busily at work,
preparing inventories and balance sheets. The firm of
French and Company, Limited, manufacturers of crashes
and burlaps and kindred stuffs, with extensive mills in
Connecticut, and central offices in New York, having for
a long time resisted the siren voice of the promoter, had
finally faced the alternative of selling out, at a sacrifice, to
the recently organised bagging trust, or of meeting a disas-
trous competition. Expecting to yield in the end, they
had fought for position — with brilliant results. Negotia-
tions for a sale, upon terms highly favourable to the firm,
had been in progress for several weeks ; and the two part-
ners were awaiting, in their private office, the final word.
Should the sale be completed, they were richer men than
they could have hoped to be after ten years more of
business stress and struggle; should it fail, they were
heavy losers, for their fight had been expensive. They
were in much the same position as the player who had
staked the bulk of his fortune on the cast of a die. Not
meaning to risk so much, they had been drawn into it;
but the game was worth the candle.
"Nine fifty-five," said Kirby. "Five minutes more!"
He strode over to the window and looked out. It was
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 5
snowing, and the March wind, blowing straight up Broad-
way from the bay, swept the white flakes northward in
long, feathery swirls. Mr. French preserved his rigid
attitude, though a close observer might have wondered
whether it was quite natural, or merely the result of a
supreme effort of will.
Work had been practically suspended in the outer office.
The clerks were also watching the clock. Every one of
them knew that the board of directors of the bagging trust
was in session, and that at ten o'clock it was to report the
result of its action on the proposition of French and Com-
pany, Limited. The clerks were not especially cheerful;
the impending change meant for them, at best, a change
of masters, and for many of them, the loss of employment.
The firm, for relinquishing its business and good will,
would receive liberal compensation; the clerks, for their
skill, experience, and prospects of advancement, would
receive their discharge. What else could be expected?
The principal reason for the trust's existence was economy
of administration; this was stated, most convincingly, in
the prospectus. There was no suggestion, in that model
document, that competition would be crushed, or that,
monopoly once established, labour must sweat and the
public groan in order that a few captains, or chevaliers,
of industry, might double their dividends. Mr. French
may have known it, or guessed it, but he was between
the devil and the deep sea — a victim rather than an acces-
sory — he must take what he could get, or lose what he
Kirby, as he breathed rather than spoke the words,
threw away his scarcely lighted cigarette, and gripped the
arms of his chair spasmodically. His partner's attitude
had not varied by a hair's breadth ; except for the scarcely
6 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
perceptible rise and fall of his chest he might have been a
wax figure. The pallor of his countenance would have
strengthened the illusion.
Kirby pushed his chair back and sprung to his feet.
The clock marked the hour, but nothing happened. Kirby
was wont to say, thereafter, that the ten minutes that fol-
lowed were the longest day of his life. But everything
must have an end, and their suspense was terminated by a
telephone call. Mr. French took down the receiver and
placed it to his ear.
""It's all right," he announced, looking toward his part-
ner. "Our figures accepted — resolution adopted — settle-
ment to-morrow. We are "
The receiver fell upon the table with a crash. Mr.
French toppled over, and before Kirby had scarcely
realised that something was the matter, had sunk uncon-
scious to the floor, which, fortunately, was thickly carpeted.
It was but the work of a moment for Kirby to loosen
his partner's collar, reach into the recesses of a certain
drawer in the big desk, draw out a flask of brandy, and
pour a small quantity of the burning liquid down the
unconscious man's throat. A push on one of the electric
buttons summoned a clerk, with whose aid Mr. French
was lifted to a leather-covered couch that stood against
the wall. Almost at once the effect of the stimulant was
apparent, and he opened his eyes.
"I suspect," he said, with a feeble attempt at a smile,
"that I must have fainted — like a woman — perfectly
"Perfectly natural," replied his partner. "You have
scarcely slept for two weeks — between the business and
Phil — and you've reached the end of your string. But
it's all over now, except the shouting, and you can sleep a
week if you like. You'd better go right up home. I'll
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 7
send for a cab, and call Dr. Moffatt, and ask him to be at
the hotel by the time you reach it. I'll take care of things
here to-day, and after a good sleep you'll find yourself all
"Very well, Kirby," replied Mr. French, "I feel as
weak as water, but I'm all here. It might have been
much worse. You'll call up Mrs. Jerviss, of course, and
let her know about the sale ?"
When Mr. French, escorted to the cab by his partner,
and accompanied by a clerk, had left for home, Kirby
rang up the doctor, and requested him to look after Mr.
French immediately. He then called for another num-
ber, and after the usual delay, first because the exchange
girl was busy, and then because the line was busy, found
himself in communication with the lady for whom he had
"It's all right, Mrs. Jerviss," he announced without
preliminaries. "Our terms accepted, and payment to be
made, in cash and bonds, as soon as the papers are exe-
cuted, when you will be twice as rich as you are to-day."
"Thank you, Mr. Kirby! And I suppose I shall never
have another happy moment until I know what to do with
it. Money is a great trial. I often envy the poor."
Kirby smiled grimly. She little knew how near she
had been to ruin. The active partners had mercifully
shielded her, as far as possible, from the knowledge of their
common danger. If the worst happened, she must know,
of course; if not, then, being a woman whom they both
liked — she would be spared needless anxiety. How closely
they had skirted the edge of disaster she did not learn until
afterward; indeed, Kirby himself had scarcely appreciated
the true situation, and even the senior partner, since he
had not been present at the meeting of the trust managers,
could not know what had been in their minds.
8 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
But Kirby's voice gave no hint of these reflections. He
laughed a cheerful laugh. "If the world only knew/' he
rejoined, "it would cease to worry about the pains of
poverty, and weep for the woes of wealth."
"Indeed it would!" she replied, with a seriousness which
seemed almost sincere. "Is Mr. French there ? I wish
to thank him, too."
"No, he has just gone home."
"At this hour?" she exclaimed, "and at such a time?
What can be the matter ? Is Phil worse ? "
"No, I think not. Mr. French himself had a bad turn,
for a few minutes, after we learned the news."
Faces are not yet visible over the telephone, and Kirby
could not see that for a moment the lady's grew white.
But when she spoke again the note of concern in her voice
was very evident.
"It was nothing — serious?"
"Oh, no, not at all, merely overwork, and lack of
sleep, and the suspense — and the reaction. He recovered
almost immediately, and one of the clerks went home
"Has Dr. Moffatt been notified?" she asked.
"Yes, I called him up at once; he'll be at the Mercedes
by the time the patient arrives."
There was a little further conversation on matters of
business, and Kirby would willingly have prolonged it,
but his news about Mr. French had plainly disturbed the
lady's equanimity, and Kirby rang off, after arranging to
call to see her in person after business hours.
Mr. Kirby hung up the receiver with something of a
"A fine woman," he murmured, "I could envy French
his chances, though he doesn't seem to see them — that
is, if I were capable of envy toward so fine a fellow
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 9
and so good a friend. It's curious how clear-sighted
a man can be in some directions, and how blind in
Mr. French lived at the Mercedes, an uptown apart-
ment hotel overlooking Central Park. He had scarcely
reached his apartment, when the doctor arrived — a tall,
fair, fat practitioner, and one of the best in New York; a
gentleman as well, and a friend of Mr. French.
"My dear fellow," he said, after a brief examination,
"you've been burning the candle at both ends, which, at
your age won't do at all. No, indeed! No, indeed!
You've always worked too hard, and you've been worrying
too much about the boy, who'll do very well now, with care.
You've got to take a rest — it's all you need. You confess to
no bad habits, and show the signs of none; and you have a
fine constitution. I'm going to order you and Phil away
for three months, to some mild climate, where you'll be
free from business cares and where the boy can grow strong
without having to fight a raw Eastern spring. You might
try the Riviera, but I'm afraid the sea would be too much
for Phil just yet; or southern California — but the trip is
tiresome. The South is nearer at hand. There's Palm
Beach, or Jekyll Island, or Thomasville, Asheville, or
Aiken — somewhere down in the pine country. It will be
just the thing for the boy's lungs, and just the place for you
to rest. Start within a week, if you can get away. In
fact, you've got to get away."
Mr. French was too weak to resist — both body and mind
seemed strangely relaxed — and there was really no reason
why he should not go. His work was done. Kirby could
attend to the formal transfer of the business. He would
take a long journey to some pleasant, quiet spot, where he
and Phil could sleep, and dream and ride and drive and
grow strong, and enjoy themselves. For the moment he
10 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
felt as though he would never care to do any more work,
nor would he need to, for he was rich enough. He would
live for the boy. Phil's education, his health, his happiness,
his establishment in life — these would furnish occupation
enough for his well-earned retirement.
It was a golden moment. He had won a notable
victory against greed and craft and highly trained intelli-
gence. And yet, a year later, he was to recall this recent
past with envy and regret; for in the meantime he was to
fight another battle against the same forces, and others
quite as deeply rooted in human nature. But he was to
fight upon a new field, and with different weapons, and
with results which could not be foreseen.
But no premonition of impending struggle disturbed
Mr. French's pleasant reverie; it was broken in a much
more agreeable manner by the arrival of a visitor, who
was admitted by Judson, Mr. French's man. The visitor
was a handsome, clear-eyed, fair-haired woman, of thirty
or thereabouts, accompanied by another and a plainer
woman, evidently a maid or companion. The lady was
dressed with the most expensive simplicity, and her grace-
ful movements were attended by the rustle of unseen silks.
In passing her upon the street, any man under ninety
would have looked at her three times, the first glance
instinctively recognising an attractive woman, the second
ranking her as a lady; while the third, had there been
time and opportunity, would have been the long, lingering
look of respectful or regretful admiration.
"How is Mr. French, Judson?" she inquired, without
dissembling her anxiety.
"He's much better, Mrs. Jerviss, thank you, ma'am."
"I'm very glad to hear it; and how is Phil ?"
"Quite bright, ma'am, you'd hardly know that he'd
been sick. He's gaining strength rapidly; he sleeps a
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 11
great deal; he's asleep now, ma'am. But, won't you
step into the library ? There's a fire in the grate, and I'll
let Mr. French know you are here."
But Mr. French, who had overheard part of the colloquy,
came forward from an adjoining room, in smoking jacket
"How do you do?" he asked, extending his hand.
"It was mighty good of you to come to see me."
"And I'm awfully glad to find you better," she returned,
giving him her slender, gloved hand with impulsive
warmth. "I might have telephoned, but I wanted to see
for myself. I felt a part of the blame to be mine, for it
is partly for me, you know, that you have been over-
"It was all in the game," he said, "and we have won.
But sit down and stay awhile. I know you'll pardon my
smoking jacket. We are partners, you know, and I
claim an invalid's privilege as well."
The lady's fine eyes beamed, and her fair cheek flushed
with pleasure. Had he only realised it, he might have
claimed of her any privilege a woman can properly allow,
even that of conducting her to the altar. But to him she
was only, thus far, as she had been for a long time, a
very good friend of his own and of Phil's; a former part-
ner's widow, who had retained her husband's interest in
the business; a wholesome, handsome woman, who was
always excellent company and at whose table he had
often eaten, both before and since her husband's death.
Nor, despite Kirby's notions, was he entirely ignorant
of the lady's partiality for himself.
"Doctor Moffatt has ordered Phil and me away, for
three months," he said, after Mrs. Jerviss had inquired
particularly concerning his health and Phil's.
"Three months!" she exclaimed with an accent of
12 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
dismay. "But you'll be back," she added, recovering
herself quickly, "before the vacation season opens?"
"Oh, certainly; we shall not leave the country."
"Where are you going?"
"The doctor has prescribed the pine woods. I shall
visit my old home, where I was born. We shall leave in
a day or two."
"You must dine with me to-morrow," she said warmly,
"and tell me about your old home. I haven't had an
opportunity to thank you for making me rich, and I
want your advice about what to do with the money; and
I'm tiring you now when you ought to be resting."
"Do not hurry," he said. "It is almost a pleasure to
be weak and helpless, since it gives me the privilege of a
visit from you."
She lingered a few moments and then went. She was
the embodiment of good taste and knew when to come
and when to go.
Mr. French was conscious that her visit, instead of tiring
him, had had an opposite effect; she had come and gone
like a pleasant breeze, bearing sweet odours and the echo
of distant music. Her shapely hand, when it had touched
his own, had been soft but firm; and he had almost
wished, as he held it for a moment, that he might
feel it resting on his still somewhat fevered brow.
When he came back from the South, he would see a
good deal of her, either at the seaside, or wherever she
might spend the summer.
When Mr. French and Phil were ready, a day or two
later, to start upon their journey, Kirby was at the
Mercedes to see them off.
"You're taking Judson with you to look after the boy ?"
"No," replied Mr. French, "Judson is in love, and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 13
does not wish to leave New York. He will take a vacation
until we return. Phil and I can get along very well alone.
Kirby went with them across the ferry to the Jersey
side, and through the station gates to the waiting train.
There was a flurry of snow in the air, and overcoats
were comfortable. When Mr. French had turned over
his hand luggage to the porter of the Pullman, they
walked up and down the station platform.
"I'm looking for something to interest us," said Kirby,
rolling a cigarette. "There's a mining proposition in
Utah, and a trolley railroad in Oklahoma. When things
are settled up here, I'll take a run out, and look the ground
over, and write to you."
"My dear fellow," said his friend, "don't hurry. Why
should I make any more money ? I have all I shall ever
need, and as much as will be good for Phil. If you find
a good thing, I can help you finance it; and Mrs. Jerviss
will welcome a good investment. But I shall take a
long rest, and then travel for a year or two, and after that
settle down and take life comfortably."
"That's the way you feel now," replied Kirby, lighting
another cigarette, "but wait until you are rested, and
you'll yearn for the fray; the first million only whets the
appetite for more."
The word was passed along the line of cars. Kirby
took leave of Phil, into whose hand he had thrust a five-
dollar bill, "To buy popcorn on the train," he said, kissed
the boy, and wrung his ex-partner's hand warmly.
"Good-bye," he said, "and good luck. You'll hear
from me soon. We're partners still, you and I and Mrs.
And though Mr. French smiled acquiescence, and
returned Kirby's hand clasp with equal vigour and
14 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
sincerity, he felt, as the train rolled away, as one might
feel who, after a long sojourn in an alien land, at last
takes ship for home. The mere act of leaving New York,
after the severance of all compelling ties, seemed to set in
motion old currents of feeling, which, moving slowly at
the start, gathered momentum as the miles rolled by,
until his heart leaped forward to the old Southern town
which was his destination, and he soon felt himself
chafing impatiently at any delay that threatened to throw
the train behind schedule time.
"He'll be back in six weeks," declared Kirby, when
Mrs. Jerviss and he next met. "I know him well; he
can't live without his club and his counting room. It is
hard to teach an old dog new tricks."
"And I'm sure he'll not stay away longer than three
months," said the lady confidently, "for I have invited
him to my house party."
"A privilege," said Kirby gallantly, "for which many
a man would come from the other end of the world."
But they were both mistaken. For even as they spoke,
he whose future each was planning, was entering upon a
new life of his own, from which he was to look back upon
his business career as a mere period of preparation for the
real end and purpose of his earthly existence.
The hack which the colonel had taken at the station
after a two-days' journey, broken by several long waits
for connecting trains, jogged in somewhat leisurely fashion
down the main street toward the hotel. The colonel,
with his little boy, had left the main line of railroad leading
north and south and had taken at a certain way station
the one daily train for Clarendon, with which the express
made connection. They had completed the forty-mile
journey in two or three hours, arriving at Clarendon at
It was an auspicious moment for visiting the town. It
is true that the grass grew in the street here and there,
but the sidewalks were separated from the roadway by
rows of oaks and elms and china-trees in early leaf.
The travellers had left New York in the midst of a snow-
storm, but here the scent of lilac and of jonquil, the
song of birds, the breath of spring, were all about them.
The occasional stretches of brick sidewalk under their
green canopy looked cool and inviting; for while the chill
of winter had fled and the sultry heat of summer was
not yet at hand, the railroad coach had been close and
dusty, and the noonday sun gave some slight foretaste
of his coming reign.
The colonel looked about him eagerly. It was all so
like, and yet so different — shrunken somewhat, and
faded, but yet, like a woman one loves, carried into old
age something of the charm of youth. The old town, whose
ripeness was almost decay, whose quietness was scarcely
16 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
distinguishable from lethargy, had been the home of his
youth, and he saw it, strange to say, less with the eyes of
the lad of sixteen who had gone to the war, than with those
of the little boy to whom it had been, in his tenderest
years, the great wide world, the only world he knew in
the years when, with his black boy Peter, whom his father
had given to him as a personal attendant, he had gone
forth to field and garden, stream and forest, in search of
childish adventure. Yonder was the old academy, where
he had attended school. The yellow brick of its walls
had scaled away in places, leaving the surface mottled
with pale splotches; the shingled roof was badly dilapi-
dated, and overgrown here and there with dark green moss.
The cedar trees in the yard were in need of pruning, and
seemed, from their rusty trunks and scant leafage, to have
shared in the general decay. As they drove down the
street, cows were grazing in the vacant lot between the
bank, which had been built by the colonel's grandfather,
and the old red brick building, formerly a store, but now
occupied, as could be seen by the row of boxes visible
through the open door, by the post-office.
The little boy, an unusually handsome lad of five or
six, with blue eyes and fair hair, dressed in knickerbockers
and a sailor cap, was also keenly interested in the sur-
roundings. It was Saturday, and the little two-wheeled
carts, drawn by a steer or a mule; the pigs sleeping in the
shadow of the old wooden market-house; the lean and
sallow pinelanders and listless negroes dozing on the
curbstone, were all objects of novel interest to the boy,
as was manifest by the light in his eager eyes and an
occasional exclamation, which in a clear childish treble,
came from his perfectly chiselled lips. Only a glance
was needed to see that the child, though still somewhat
pale and delicate from his recent illness, had inherited
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 17
the characteristics attributed to good blood. Features,
expression, bearing, were marked by the signs of race;
but a closer scrutiny was required to discover, in the
blue-eyed, golden-haired lad, any close resemblance to
the shrewd, dark man of affairs who sat beside him, and
to whom this little boy was, for the time being, the sole
object in life.
But for the child the colonel was alone in the world.
Many years before, when himself only a boy, he had served
in the Southern army, in a regiment which had fought
with such desperate valour that the honour of the colonelcy
had come to him at nineteen, as the sole survivor of the
group of young men who had officered the regiment.
His father died during the last year of the Civil War,
having lived long enough to see the conflict work ruin to
his fortunes. The son had been offered employment in
New York by a relative who had sympathised with the
South in her struggle; and he had gone away from Claren-
don. The old family "mansion" — it was not a very
imposing structure, except by comparison with even less
pretentious houses — had been sold upon foreclosure, and
bought by an ambitious mulatto, who only a few years
before had himself been an object of barter and sale.
Entering his uncle's office as a clerk, and following his
advice, reinforced by a sense of the fitness of things, the
youthful colonel had dropped his military title and become
plain Mr. French. Putting the past behind him, except
as a fading memory, he had thrown himself eagerly into
the current of affairs. Fortune favoured one both capable
and energetic. In time he won a partnership in the firm,
and when death removed his relative, took his place at
He had looked forward to the time, not very far in
the future, when he might retire from business and
18 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
devote his leisure to study and travel, tastes which for
years he had subordinated to the pursuit of wealth; not
entirely, for his life had been many sided; and not so
much for the money, as because, being in a game where
dollars were the counters, it was his instinct to play
it well. He was winning already, and when the bagging
trust paid him, for his share of the business, a sum double
his investment, he found himself, at some years less than
fifty, relieved of business cares and in command of an
This change in the colonel's affairs — and we shall hence-
forth call him the colonel, because the scene of this story is
laid in the South, where titles are seldom ignored, and
where the colonel could hardly have escaped his own, even
had he desired to do so — this change in the colonel's
affairs coincided with that climacteric of the mind, from
which, without ceasing to look forward, it turns, at times,
in wistful retrospect, toward the distant past, which it
sees thenceforward through a mellowing glow of senti-
ment. Emancipated from the counting room, and ordered
South by the doctor, the colonel's thoughts turned easily
and naturally to the old town that had given him birth;
and he felt a twinge of something like remorse at the
reflection that never once since leaving it had he set
foot within its borders. For years he had been too busy.
His wife had never manifested any desire to visit the
South, nor was her temperament one to evoke or sym-
pathise with sentimental reminiscence. He had married,
rather late in life, a New York woman, much younger
than himself; and while he had admired her beauty and
they had lived very pleasantly together, there had not
existed between them the entire union of souls essential to
perfect felicity, and the current of his life had not been
greatly altered by her loss.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 19
Toward little Phil, however, the child she had borne him,
his feeling was very different. His young wife had been,
after all, but a sweet and pleasant graft upon a sturdy
tree. Little Phil was flesh of his flesh and bone of his
bone. Upon his only child the colonel lavished all of his
affection. Already, to his father's eye, the boy gave
promise of a noble manhood. His frame was graceful and
active. His hair was even more brightly golden than his
mother's had been; his eyes more deeply blue than hers;
while his features were a duplicate of his father's at the
same age, as was evidenced by a faded daguerreotype
among the colonel's few souvenirs of his own childhood.
Little Phil had a sweet temper, a loving disposition, and
endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact.
The hack, after a brief passage down the main street,
deposited the passengers at the front of the Clarendon
Hotel. The colonel paid the black driver the quarter he
demanded — two dollars would have been the New York
price — ran the gauntlet of the dozen pairs of eyes in the
heads of the men leaning back in the splint-bottomed arm-
chairs under the shade trees on the sidewalk, registered
in the book pushed forward by a clerk with curled mus-
taches and pomatumed hair, and accompanied by Phil,
followed the smiling black bellboy along a passage and
up one flight of stairs to a spacious, well-lighted and
neatly furnished room, looking out upon the main street.
When the colonel and Phil had removed the dust and
disorder of travel from their appearance, they went down
to dinner. After they had eaten, the colonel, still ac-
companied by the child, left the hotel, and following the
main street for a short distance, turned into another
thoroughfare bordered with ancient elms, and stopped for
a moment before an old gray house with high steps and
broad piazza — a large, square-built, two-storied house,
with a roof sloping down toward the front, broken by
dormer windows and buttressed by a massive brick
chimney at either end. In spite of the gray monotone to
which the paintless years had reduced the once white
weatherboarding and green Venetian blinds, the house pos-
sessed a certain stateliness of style which was independent
of circumstance, and a solidity of construction that resisted
sturdily the disintegrating hand of time. Heart-pine and
live-oak, mused the colonel, like other things Southern,
live long and die hard. The old house had been built
of the best materials, and its woodwork dowelled and
mortised and tongued and grooved by men who knew
their trade and had not learned to scamp their work.
For the colonel's grandfather had built the house as a
town residence, the family having owned in addition
thereto a handsome country place upon a large plantation
remote from the town.
The colonel had stopped on the opposite side of the
street and was looking intently at the home of his ancestors
and of his own youth, when a neatly dressed coloured
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 21
girl came out on the piazza, seated herself in a rocking-
chair with an air of proprietorship, and opened what the
colonel perceived to be, even across the street, a copy of a
woman's magazine whose circulation, as he knew from
the advertising rates that French and Co. had paid for
the use of its columns, touched the million mark. Not
wishing to seem rude, the colonel moved slowly on down
the street. When he turned his head, after going a rod or
two, and looked back over his shoulder, the girl had risen
and was re-entering the house. Her disappearance was
promptly followed by the notes of a piano, slightly out of
tune, to which some one — presumably the young woman —
was singing in a high voice, which might have been better
had it been better trained,
" I dreamt that I dwe-elt in ma-arble halls
With vassals and serfs at my si-i-ide."
The colonel had slackened his pace at the sound of the
music, but, after the first few bars, started forward with
quickened footsteps which he did not relax until little
Phil's weight, increasing momentarily, brought home to him
the consciousness that his stride was too long for the boy's
short legs. Phil, who was a thoroughbred, and would
have dropped in his tracks without complaining, was
nevertheless relieved when his father's pace returned to
Their walk led down a hill, and, very soon, to a wooden
bridge which spanned a creek some twenty feet below.
The colonel paused for a moment beside the railing, and
looked up and down the stream. It seemed narrower and
more sluggish than his memory had pictured it. Above
him the water ran between high banks grown thick with
underbrush and over-arching trees; below the bridge, to
22 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the right of the creek, lay an open meadow, and to the left,
a few rods away, the ruins of the old Eureka cotton mill,
which in his boyhood had harboured a flourishing industry,
but which had remained, since Sherman's army laid
waste the country, the melancholy ruin the colonel had
seen it last, when twenty-five years or more before, he left
Clarendon to seek a wider career in the outer world.
The clear water of the creek rippled harmoniously down a
gentle slope and over the site where the great dam at the
foot had stood, while birds were nesting in the vines
with which kindly nature had sought to cloak the dis-
mantled and crumbling walls.
Mounting the slope beyond the bridge, the colonel's
stride now carefully accommodated to the child's puny
step, they skirted a low brick wall, beyond which white
headstones gleamed in a mass of verdure. Reaching an
iron gate, the colonel lifted the latch, and entered the
cemetery which had been the object of their visit.
"Is this the place, papa ?" asked the little boy.
"Yes, Phil, but it is farther on, in the older part."
They passed slowly along, under the drooping elms and
willows, past the monuments on either hand — here, resting
on a low brick wall, a slab of marble, once white, now
gray and moss-grown, from which the hand of time had
well nigh erased the carved inscription; here a family
vault, built into the side of a mound of earth, from which
only the barred iron door distinguished it; here a pedestal,
with a time-worn angel holding a broken fragment of
the resurrection trumpet; here a prostrate headstone, and
there another bending to its fall; and among them a
profusion of rose bushes, on some of which the early
roses were already blooming — scarcely a well-kept
cemetery, for in many lots the shrubbery grew in wild
unpruned luxuriance; nor yet entirely neglected, since
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 23
others showed the signs of loving care, and an effort had
been made to keep the walks clean and clear.
Father and son had traversed half the width of the
cemetery, when they came to a spacious lot, surrounded
by large trees and containing several monuments. It
seemed less neglected than the lots about it, and as they
drew nigh they saw among the tombs a very black and
seemingly aged Negro engaged in pruning a tangled
rose tree. Near him stood a dilapidated basket, partially
filled with weeds and leaves, into which he was throwing
the dead and superfluous limbs. He seemed very intent
upon his occupation, and had not noticed the colonel's
and Phil's approach until they had paused at the side
of the lot and stood looking at him.
When the old man became aware of their presence, he
straightened himself up with the slow movement of one
stiff with age or rheumatism and threw them a tentatively
friendly look out of a pair of faded eyes.
"Howdy do, uncle," said the colonel. "Will you
tell me whose graves these are that you are car-
"Yas, suh," said the old man, removing his battered
hat respectfully — the rest of his clothing was in keeping,
a picturesque assortment of rags and patches such as only
an old Negro can get together, or keep together — "dis
hyuh lot, suh, b'longs ter de fambly dat I useter b'long ter
— de ol' French fambly, suh, de fines' fambly in Beaver
"Why, papa!" cried little Phil, "he means "
"Hush, Phil! Go on, uncle."
"Yas, suh, de fines' fambly in Cla'endon, suh. Dis
hyuh headstone hyuh, suh, an' de little stone at de foot,
rep'esents de grave er ol' Gin'al French, w'at fit in de
Revolution' Wah, suh; and dis hyuh one nex' to it is de
24 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
grave er my ol' marster, Majah French, w'at fit in de
Mexican Wah, and died endyoin' de wah wid de Yankees,
"Papa," urged Phil, "that's my "
"Shut up, Phil! Well, uncle, did this interesting old
family die out, or is it represented in the present genera-
"Lawd, no, suh, de fambly did n' die out — 'deed dey
did n' die out! dey ain't de kind er fambly ter die out!
But it's mos' as bad, suh — dey's moved away. Young
Mars Henry went ter de Norf, and dey say he's got rich;
but he ain't be'n back no mo', suh, an' I don' know
whether he's ever comin' er no."
"You must have been very fond of them to take such
good care of their graves," said the colonel, much moved,
but giving no sign.
"Well, suh, I b'longed ter de fambly, an' I ain' got no
chick ner chile er my own, livin', an' dese hyuh dead
folks 'pears mo' closer ter me dan anybody e'se. De
cullud folks don' was'e much time wid a ole man w'at
ain' got nothin', an' dese hyuh new w'ite folks wa't is
come up sence de wah, ain' got no use fer niggers, now
dat dey don' b'long ter nobody no mo'; so w'en I ain' got
nothin' e'se ter do, I comes roun' hyuh, whar I knows
ev'ybody and ev'ybody knows me, an' trims de rose
bushes an' pulls up de weeds and keeps de grass down
jes' lak I s'pose Mars Henry'd 'a' had it done ef he'd 'a'
lived hyuh in de ole home, stidder 'way off yandah in de
Norf, whar he so busy makin' money dat he done fergot
all 'bout his own folks."
"What is your name?" asked the colonel, who had been
looking closely at the old man.
"Peter, suh — Peter French. Most er de niggers
change' dey names after de wah, but I kept de ole fambly
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 25
name I wuz raise' by. It wuz good 'nuff fer me, suh;
dey am' none better."
"Oh, papa," said little Phil, unable to restrain himself
longer, "he must be some kin to us; he has the same
name, and belongs to the same family, and you know you
called him 'Uncle.'"
The old Negro had dropped his hat, and was staring at
the colonel and the little boy, alternately, with dawning
amazement, while a look of recognition crept slowly into
his rugged old face.
"Look a hyuh, suh," he said tremulously, "is it? — it
can't be! — but dere's de eyes, an' de nose, an' de shape er
de head — why, it must be my young Mars Henry!"
"Yes," said the colonel, extending his hand to the old
man, who grasped it with both his own and shook it
up and down with unconventional but very affectionate
vigour, "and you are my boy Peter; who took care of
me when I was no bigger than Phil here!"
This meeting touched a tender chord in the colonel's
nature, already tuned to sympathy with the dead past of
which Peter seemed the only survival. The old man's
unfeigned delight at their meeting; his retention of the
family name, a living witness of its former standing; his
respect for the dead; his "family pride," which to the
unsympathetic outsider might have seemed grotesque;
were proofs of loyalty that moved the colonel deeply.
When he himself had been a child of five or six, his father
had given him Peter as his own boy. Peter was really
not many years older than the colonel, but prosperity had
preserved the one, while hard luck had aged the other pre-
maturely. Peter had taken care of him, and taught him to
paddle in the shallow water of the creek and to avoid the
suck-holes ; had taught him simple woodcraft, how to fish,
and how to hunt, first with bow and arrow, and later
26 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
with a shotgun. Through the golden haze of memory
the colonel's happy childhood came back to him with a
sudden rush of emotion.
"Those were good times, Peter, when we were young,"
he sighed regretfully, "good times! I have seen none
"Yas, suh! yas, suh! 'Deed dem wuz good ole times!
Sho' dey wuz, suh, sho' dey wuz! 'Member dem
co'n-stalk fiddles we use' ter make, an' dem elderberry-
"Yes, Peter, and the robins we used to shoot and the
rabbits we used to trap ? "
"An' dem watermillions, suh — um-m-m, um-m-m-m!"
"Y-e-s," returned the colonel, with a shade of pensive-
ness. There had been two sides to the watermelon
question. Peter and he had not always been able to find
ripe watermelons, early in the season, and at times there
had been painful consequences, the memory of which
came back to the colonel with surprising ease. Nor had
they always been careful about boundaries in those early
days. There had been one occasion when an irate
neighbour had complained, and Major French had
thrashed Henry and Peter both — Peter because he was
older, and knew better, and Henry because it was impor-
tant that he should have impressed upon him, early in
life, that of him to whom much is given, much will be
required, and that what might be lightly regarded in
Peter's case would be a serious offence in his future
master's. The lesson had been well learned, for through-
out the course of his life the colonel had never shirked
responsibility, but had made the performance of duty his
criterion of conduct. To him the line of least resistance
had always seemed the refuge of the coward and the
weakling. With the twenty years preceding his return to
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 27
Clarendon, this story has nothing to do; but upon the
quiet background of his business career he had lived an
active intellectual and emotional life, and had developed
into one of those rare natures of whom it may be truly
said that they are men, and that they count nothing of
what is human foreign to themselves.
But the serenity of Peter's retrospect was unmarred by
any passing cloud. Those who dwell in darkness find
it easier to remember the bright places in their lives.
"Yas, suh, yas, suh, dem watermillions," he repeated
with unction, "I kin tas'e 'em now! Dey wuz de be's
watermillions dat evuh growed, suh — dey doan raise
none lack 'em dese days no mo'. An' den dem chin-
quapin bushes down by de swamp! 'Member dem
chinquapin bushes, whar we killt dat water moccasin dat
day? He wuz 'bout ten foot long!"
"Yes, Peter, he was a whopper! Then there were the
bullace vines, in the woods beyond the tanyard! "
"Sho' 'nuff, suh! an' de minnows we use' ter ketch in de
creek, an' dem perch in de mill pon' ?"
For years the colonel had belonged to a fishing club,
which preserved an ice-cold stream in a Northern forest.
For years the choicest fruits of all the earth had been
served daily upon his table. Yet as he looked back to-day
no shining trout that had ever risen to his fly had stirred
his emotions like the diaphanous minnows, caught, with a
crooked pin, in the crooked creek; no luscious fruit had
ever matched in sweetness the sour grapes and bitter nuts
gathered from the native woods — by him and Peter in
their far-off youth.
"Yas, suh, yas, suh," Peter went on, "an' 'member dat
time you an' young Mars Jim Wilson went huntin' and
fishin' up de country tergether, an' got ti'ed er waitin' on
yo'se'ves an' writ back fer me ter come up ter wait on yer
28 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
and cook fer yer, an' ole Marster say he did n' dare ter
let me go 'way off yander wid two keerliss boys lak you-all,
wid guns an' boats fer fear I mought git shot, er
drownded ? "
"It looked, Peter, as though he valued you more than
me! more than his own son!"
"Yas, suh, yas, suh! sho' he did, sho' he did! old
Marse Philip wuz a monstus keerful man, an' I wuz
wuth somethin', suh, dem times; I wuz wuth five
hundred dollahs any day in de yeah. But nobody
would n' give five hundred cents fer me now, suh.
Dey'd want pay fer takin' me, mos' lakly. Dey am'
none too much room fer a young nigger no mo', let
'lone a' oP one."
"And what have you been doing all these years, Peter ?"
asked the colonel.
Peter's story was not a thrilling one; it was no tale of
inordinate ambition, no Odyssey of a perilous search for
the prizes of life, but the bald recital of a mere struggle for
existence. Peter had stayed by his master until his master's
death. Then he had worked for a railroad contractor,
until exposure and overwork had laid him up with a fever.
After his recovery, he had been employed for some years
at cutting turpentine boxes in the pine woods, following
the trail of the industry southward, until one day his
axe had slipped and wounded him severely. When
his wound was healed he was told that he was too old
and awkward for the turpentine, and that they needed
younger and more active men.
"So w'en I got my laig kyo'ed up," said the old man,
concluding his story, "I come back hyuh whar I wuz
bo'n, suh, and whar my w'ite folks use' ter live, an' whar
my frien's use' ter be. But my w'ite folks wuz all in de
graveya'd, an' most er my frien's wuz dead er moved
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 29
away, an' I fin's it kinder lonesome, suh. I goes out
an' picks cotton in de fall, an' I does arrants an'
little jobs roun' de house fer folks w'at '11 hire me; an'
w'en I ain' got nothin' ter eat I kin gor oun' ter de ole
house an' wo'k in de gyahden er chop some wood, an'
git a meal er vittles f'om ole Mis' Nichols, who's be'n
mighty good ter me, suh. She's de barbuh's wife,
suh, w'at bought ouah ole house. Dey got mo' dan
any yuther colored folks roun' hyuh, but dey he'ps de
po', suh, dey he'ps de po'."
"Which speaks well for them, Peter. I'm glad that all
the virtue has not yet gone out of the old house."
The old man's talk rambled on, like a sluggish stream,
while the colonel's more active mind busied itself with the
problem suggested by this unforeseen meeting. Peter
and he had both gone out into the world, and they had
both returned. He had come back rich and independent.
What good had freedom done for Peter ? In the colonel's
childhood his father's butler, old Madison, had lived a life
which, compared to that of Peter at the same age, was one
of ease and luxury. How easy the conclusion that the
slave's lot had been the more fortunate ! But no, Peter had
been better free. There were plenty of poor white men,
and no one had suggested slavery as an improvement of
their condition. Had Peter remained a slave, then the
colonel would have remained a master, which was only
another form of slavery. The colonel had been emanci-
pated by the same token that had made Peter free. Peter
had returned home poor and broken, not because he had
been free, but because nature first, and society next, in
distributing their gifts, had been niggardly with old Peter.
Had he been better equipped, or had a better chance, he
might have made a better showing. The colonel had pros-
pered because, having no Peters to work for him, he had
30 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
been compelled to work for himself. He would set his
own success against Peter's failure; and he would take
off his hat to the memory of the immortal statesman, who
in freeing one race had emancipated another and struck
the shackles from a Nation's mind.
While the colonel and old Peter were thus discussing
reminiscences in which little Phil could have no share, the
boy, with childish curiosity, had wandered off, down one
of the shaded paths. When, a little later, the colonel
looked around for him, he saw Phil seated on a rustic
bench, in conversation with a lady. As the boy seemed
entirely comfortable, and the lady not at all disturbed, the
colonel did not interrupt them for a while. But when
the lady at length rose, holding Phil by the hand, the
colonel, fearing that the boy, who was a child of strong
impulses, prone to sudden friendships, might be proving
troublesome, left his seat on the flat-topped tomb of his
Revolutionary ancestor and hastened to meet them.
"I trust my boy hasn't annoyed you," he said, lifting
"Not at all, sir," returned the lady, in a clear, sweet
voice, some haunting tone of which found an answering
vibration in the colonel's memory. "On the contrary, he
has interested me very much, and in nothing more than in
telling me his name. If this and my memory do not
deceive me, you are Henry French!"
"Yes, and you are — you are Laura Treadwell! How
glad I am to meet you I I was coming to call this after-
"I'm glad to see you again. We have always remem-
bered you, and knew that you had grown rich and great,
and feared that you had forgotten the old town — and your
32 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Not very rich, nor very great, Laura — Miss Tread-
" Let it be Laura," she said with a faint colour mount-
ing in her cheek, which had not yet lost its smoothness,
as her eyes had not faded, nor her step lost its spring.
"And neither have I forgotten the old home nor the
old friends — since I am here and knew you the moment I
looked at you and heard your voice."
"And what a dear little boy!" exclaimed Miss Tread-
well, looking down at Phil. "He is named Philip — after
his grandfather, I reckon ? "
"After his grandfather. We have been visiting his
grave, and those of all the Frenches; and I found them
haunted — by an old retainer, who had come hither, he
said, to be with his friends."
"Old Peter! I see him, now and then, keeping the lot
in order. There are few like him left, and there were never
any too many. But how have you been these many
years, and where is your wife? Did you bring her with
"I buried her," returned the colonel, "a little over a
year ago. She left me little Phil."
"He must be like her," replied the lady, "and yet he
"He has her eyes and hair," said his father. "He is a
good little boy and a lad of taste. See how he took to you
at first sight! I can always trust Phil's instincts. He is
a born gentleman."
"He came of a race of gentlemen," she said. "I'm
glad it is not to die out. There are none too many left
— in Clarendon. You are going to like me, aren't you,
Phil ?" asked the lady.
"I like you already," replied Phil gallantly. "You are
a very nice lady. What shall I call you ? "
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 33
"Call her Miss Laura, Phil — it is the Southern fashion
— a happy union of familiarity and respect. Already they
come back to me, Laura — one breathes them with the air
— the gentle Southern customs. With all the faults of the
old system, Laura — it carried the seeds of decay within
itself and was doomed to perish — a few of us, at least, had
a good time. An aristocracy is quite endurable, for the
aristocrat, and slavery tolerable, for the masters — and the
Peters. When we were young, before the rude hand of
war had shattered our illusions, we were very happy,
"Yes, we were very happy."
They were walking now, very slowly, toward the gate
by which the colonel had entered, with little Phil between
them, confiding a hand to each.
"And how is your mother?" asked the colonel. "She
is living yet, I trust?"
" Yes, but ailing, as she has been for fifteen years — ever
since my father died. It was his grave I came to visit."
"You had ever a loving heart, Laura," said the colonel,
"given to duty and self-sacrifice. Are you still living in
the old place?"
"The old place, only it is older, and shows it — like the
rest of us."
She bit her lip at the words, which she meant in refer-
ence to herself, but which she perceived, as soon as she
had uttered them, might apply to him with equal force.
Despising herself for the weakness which he might have
interpreted as a bid for a compliment, she was glad that
he seemed unconscious of the remark.
The colonel and Phil had entered the cemetery by
a side gate and their exit led through the main entrance.
Miss Laura pointed out, as they walked slowly along
between the elms, the graves of many whom the colonel
34 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
had known in his younger days. Their names, woven in
the tapestry of his memory, needed in most cases but a
touch to restore them. For while his intellectual life had
ranged far and wide, his business career had run along
a single channel, his circle of intimates had not been very
large nor very variable, nor was his memory so overlaid
that he could not push aside its later impressions in favour
of those graven there so deeply in his youth.
Nearing the gate, they passed a small open space in
which stood a simple marble shaft, erected to the memory
of the Confederate Dead. A wealth of fresh flowers lay
at its base. The colonel took off his hat as he stood before
it for a moment with bowed head. But for the mercy of
God, he might have been one of those whose deaths as
well as deeds were thus commemorated.
Beyond this memorial, impressive in its pure sim-
plicity, and between it and the gate, in an obtrusively con-
spicuous spot stood a florid monument of granite, marble
and bronze, of glaring design and strangely out of keeping
with the simple dignity and quiet restfulness of the sur-
roundings; a monument so striking that the colonel paused
involuntarily and read the inscription in bronze letters on
the marble shaft above the granite base:
" ' Sacred to the Memory of
Joshua Fetters and Elizabeth Fetters, his Wife.
" 'Life's work well done,
Life's race well run,
Life's crown well won,
Then comes rest.'
"A beautiful sentiment, if somewhat trite," said the
colonel, "but an atrocious monument."
" Do you think so ? " exclaimed the lady. " Most people
think the monument fine, but smile at the sentiment."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 35
"In matters of taste," returned the colonel, "the major-
ity are always wrong. But why smile at the sentiment?
Is it, for some reason, inappropriate to this particular case ?
Fetters — Fetters — the name seems familiar. Who was
"He was the speculator," she said, "who bought and
sold negroes, and kept dogs to chase runaways; old Mr.
Fetters — you must remember old Josh Fetters ? When I
was a child, my coloured mammy used him for a bogey-
man for me, as for her own children."
"'Look out, honey,' she'd say, 'ef you ain' good, ole
Mr. Fettuhs '11 ketch you.'"
Yes, he remembered now. Fetters had been a charac-
ter in Clarendon — not an admirable character, scarcely a
good character, almost a bad character; a necessary
adjunct of an evil system, and, like other parasites, worse
than the body on which he fed; doing the dirty work of
slavery, and very naturally despised by those whose instru-
ment he was, but finding consolation by taking it out of the
Negroes in the course of his business. The colonel would
have expected Fetters to lie in an unmarked grave in his
own back lot, or in the potter's field. Had he so far
escaped the ruin of the institution on which he lived, as to
leave an estate sufficient to satisfy his heirs and also pay for
this expensive but vulgar monument ?
"The memorial was erected, as you see from the rest of
the inscription, 'by his beloved and affectionate son.'
That either loved the other no one suspected, for Bill was
harshly treated, and ran away from home at fifteen. He
came back after the war, with money, which he lent out at
high rates of interest; everything he touched turned to
gold; he has grown rich, and is a great man in the State.
He was a large contributor to the soldiers' monument."
"But did not choose the design; let us be thankful for
36 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
that. It might have been like his father's. Bill Fetters
rich and great," he mused, "who would have dreamed it?
I kicked him once, all the way down Main Street from the
schoolhouse to the bank — and dodged his angry mother
for a whole month afterward ! "
"No one," suggested Miss Laura, "would venture to
cross him now. Too many owe him money."
"He went to school at the academy," the colonel went
on, unwinding the thread of his memory, "and the rest
of the boys looked down on him and made his life miser-
able. Well, Laura, in Fetters you see one thing that
resulted from the war — the poor white boy was given a
chance to grow; and if the product is not as yet altogether
admirable, taste and culture may come with another
"It is to be hoped they may," said Miss Laura, "and
character as well. Mr. Fetters has a son who has gone
from college to college, and will graduate from Harvard
this summer. They say he is very wild and spends ten
thousand dollars a year. I do not see how it can be pos-
The colonel smiled at her simplicity.
"I have been," he said, "at a college football game,
where the gate receipts were fifty thousand dollars, and
half a million was said to have changed hands in bets on
the result. It is easy to waste money."
"It is a sin," she said, "that some should be made poor,
that others may have it to waste."
There was a touch of bitterness in her tone, the instinc-
tive resentment (the colonel thought) of the born aristocrat
toward the upstart who had pushed his way above those
no longer strong enough to resist. It did not occur to him
that her feeling might rest upon any personal ground. It
was inevitable that, with the incubus of slavery removed,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 37
society should readjust itself in due time upon a democratic
basis, and that poor white men, first, and black men next,
should reach a level representing the true measure of their
talents and their ambition. But it was perhaps equally
inevitable that for a generation or two those who had suf-
fered most from the readjustment, should chafe under its
The colonel was himself a gentleman, and the descen-
dant of a long line of gentlemen. But he had lived too many
years among those who judged the tree by its fruit, to think
that blood alone entitled him to any special privileges.
The consciousness of honourable ancestry might make one
clean of life, gentle of manner, and just in one's dealings.
In so far as it did this it was something to be cherished, but
scarcely to be boasted of, for democracy is impatient of any
excellence not born of personal effort, of any pride save
that of achievement. He was glad that Fetters had got
on in the world. It justified a fine faith in humanity, that
wealth and power should have been attained by the poor
white lad, over whom, with a boy's unconscious brutality,
he had tyrannised in his childhood. He could have wished
for Bill a better taste in monuments, and better luck in
sons, if rumour was correct about Fetters's boy. But,
these, perhaps, were points where blood did tell. There
was something in blood, after all, Nature might make
a great man from any sort of material : hence the virtue of
democracy, for the world needs great men, and suffers
from their lack, and welcomes them from any source.
But fine types were a matter of breeding and were
perhaps worth the trouble of preserving, if their existence
were compatible with the larger good. He wondered if
Bill ever recalled that progress down Main Street in which
he had played so conspicuous a part, or still bore any
resentment toward the other participants ?
38 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
" Could your mother see me," he asked, as they reached
the gate, "if I went by the house ?"
"She would be glad to see you. Mother lives in the
past, and you would come to her as part of it. She often
speaks of you. It is only a short distance. You have not
forgotten the way?"
They turned to the right, in a direction opposite to that
from which the colonel had reached the cemetery. After
a few minutes' walk, in the course of which they crossed
another bridge over the same winding creek, they mounted
the slope beyond, opened a gate, climbed a short flight of
stone steps and found themselves in an enchanted garden,
where lilac bush and jessamine vine reared their heads
high, tulip and daffodil pushed their way upward, but were
all dominated by the intenser fragrance of the violets.
Old Peter had followed the party at a respectful dis-
tance, but, seeing himself forgotten, he walked past the
gate, after they had entered it, and went, somewhat dis-
consolately, on his way. He had stopped, and was looking
back toward the house — Clarendon was a great place for
looking back, perhaps because there was little in the town
to which to look forward — when a white man, wearing a
tinned badge upon his coat, came up, took Peter by the
arm and led him away, despite some feeble protests on the
old man's part.
At the end of the garden stood a frame house with a
wide, columned porch. It had once been white, and the
windows closed with blinds that still retained a faded tint
of green. Upon the porch, in a comfortable arm chair,
sat an old lady, wearing a white cap, under which her
white hair showed at the sides, and holding her hands,
upon which she wore black silk mits, crossed upon her
lap. On the top step, at opposite ends, sat two young
people — one of them a rosy-cheeked girl, in the bloom of
early youth, with a head of rebellious brown hair. She
had been reading a book held open in her hand. The
other was a long-legged, lean, shy young man, of apparently
twenty-three or twenty-four, with black hair and eyes and
a swarthy complexion. From the jack-knife beside him,
and the shavings scattered around, it was clear that he
had been whittling out the piece of pine that he was adjust-
ing, with some nicety, to a wooden model of some mechan-
ical contrivance which stood upon the floor beside him.
They were a strikingly handsome couple, of ideally con-
"Mother," said Miss Treadwell, "this is Henry French
— Colonel French — who has come back from the North
to visit his old home and the graves of his ancestors. I
found him in the cemetery; and this is his dear little boy,
Philip — named after his grandfather."
The old lady gave the colonel a slender white hand, thin
almost to transparency.
"Henry," she said, in a silvery thread of voice, "I am
40 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
glad to see you. You must excuse my not rising — I can't
walk without help. You are like your father, and even
more like your grandfather, and your little boy takes after
the family." She drew Phil toward her and kissed him.
Phil accepted this attention amiably. Meantime the
young people had risen.
"This," said Miss Treadwell, laying her hand affection-
ately on the girl's arm, "is my niece Graciella — my
brother Tom's child. Tom is dead, you know, these
eight years and more, and so is Graciella's mother, and
she has lived with us."
Graciella gave the colonel her hand with engaging frank-
ness. "I'm sure we're awfully glad to see anybody from
the North," she said. "Are you familiar with New
"I left there only day before yesterday," replied the
"And this," said Miss Treadwell, introducing the young
man, who, when he unfolded his long legs, rose to a rather
imposing height, "this is Mr. Ben Dudley."
"The son of Malcolm Dudley, of Mink Run, I suppose ?
I'm glad to meet you," said the colonel, giving the young
man's hand a cordial grasp.
"His nephew, sir," returned young Dudley. "My
uncle never married."
"Oh, indeed? I did not know; but he is alive, I trust,
"Alive, sir, but very much broken. He has not been
himself for years."
"You find things sadly changed, Henry," said Mrs.
Treadwell. "They have never been the same since the
surrender. Our people are poor now, right poor, most
of them, though we ourselves were fortunate enough to
have something left."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 41
"We have enough left for supper, mother," interposed
Miss Laura quickly, "to which we are going to ask
Colonel French to stay."
"I suppose that in New York every one has dinner at
six, and supper after the theatre or the concert?" said
"The fortunate few," returned the colonel, smiling into
her eager face, " who can afford a seat at the opera, and
to pay for and digest two meals, all in the same evening."
"And now, colonel," said Miss Treadwell, "I'm going
to see about the supper. Mother will talk to you while
I am gone."
"I must be going," said young Dudley.
"Won't you stay to supper, Ben?" asked Miss Laura.
"No, Miss Laura; I'd like to, but uncle wasn't well
to-day and I must stop by the drug store and get some
medicine for him. Dr. Price gave me a prescription on
my way in. Good-bye, sir," he added, addressing the
colonel. "Will you be in town long?"
"I really haven't decided. A day or two, perhaps a
week. I am not bound, at present, by any business
ties — am foot-loose, as we used to say when I was young.
I shall follow my inclinations."
"Then I hope, sir, that you'll feel inclined to pay us
a long visit and that I shall see you many times."
As Ben Dudley, after this courteous wish, stepped
down from the piazza, Graciella rose and walked with him
along the garden path. She was tall as most women, but
only reached his shoulder.
"Say, Graciella," he asked, "won't you give me an
"I'm thinking about it, Ben. If you could take me
away from this dead old town, with its lazy white people
and its trifling niggers, to a place where there's music
42 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
and art, and life and society — where there's something
going on all the time, I'd like to marry you. But if I did
so now, you'd take me out to your rickety old house, with
your daffy old uncle and his dumb old housekeeper, and I
should lose my own mind in a week or ten days. When
you can promise to take me to New York, I'll promise
to marry you, Ben. I want to travel, and to see things,
to visit the art galleries and libraries, to hear Patti, and to
look at the millionaires promenading on Fifth Avenue —
and I'll marry the man who'll take me there!"
"Uncle Malcolm can't live forever, Graciella — though
I wouldn't wish his span shortened by a single day — and
I'll get the plantation. And then, you know," he added,
hesitating, "we may — we may find the money."
Graciella shook her head compassionately. "No, Ben,
you'll never find the money. There isn't any; it's all
imagination — moonshine. The war unsettled your uncle's
brain, and he dreamed the money."
"It's as true as I'm standing here, Graciella," replied
Ben, earnestly, "that there's money — gold — somewhere
about the house. Uncle couldn't imagine paper and ink,
and I've seen the letter from my uncle's uncle Ralph —
I'll get it and bring it to you. Some day the money will
turn up, and then may be I'll be able to take you away.
Meantime some one must look after uncle and the place;
there's no one else but me to do it. Things must grow
better some time — they always do, you know."
"They couldn't be much worse," returned Graciella,
"Oh, they'll be better— they're bound to be! They'll
just have to be. And you'll wait for me, won't you,
"Oh, I suppose I'll have to. You're around here so
much that every one else is scared away, and there isn't
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 43
much choice at the best; all the young men worth having
are gone away already. But you know my ultimatum —
I must get to New York. If you are ready before any one
else speaks, you may take me there."
"You're hard on a poor devil, Graciella. I don't
believe you care a bit for me, or you wouldn't talk like
that. Don't you suppose I have any feelings, even if
I ain't much account? Ain't I worth as much as a trip
"Why should I waste my time with you, if I didn't care
for you?" returned Graciella, begging the question.
"Here's a rose, in token of my love."
She plucked the flower and thrust it into his hand.
"It's full of thorns, like your love," he said ruefully,
as he picked the sharp points out of his fingers.
" 'Faithful are the wounds of a friend,' " returned
the girl. " See Psalms, xxvii : 6."
"Take care of my cotton press, Graciella; I'll come in
to-morrow evening and work on it some more. I'll
bring some cotton along to try it with."
"You'll probably find some excuse — you always do."
"Don't you want me to come?" he asked with a trace of
resentment. " I can stay away, if you don't."
"Oh, you come so often that I — I suppose I'd miss you,
if you didn't! One must have some company, and half
a loaf is better than no bread."
He went on down the hill, turning at the corner for a
lingering backward look at his tyrant. Graciella, bending
her head over the wall, followed his movements with a
swift tenderness in her sparkling brown eyes.
"I love him better than anything on earth," she sighed,
"but it would never do to tell him so. He'd get so con-
ceited that I couldn't manage him any longer, and so lazy
that he'd never exert himself. I must get away from this
44 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
town before I'm old and gray — I'll be seventeen next
week, and an old maid in next to no time — and Ben must
take me away. But I must be his inspiration; he'd never
do it by himself. I'll go now and talk to that dear old
Colonel French about the North; I can learn a great deal
from him. And he doesn't look so old either," she mused,
as she went back up the walk to where the colonel sat on
the piazza talking to the other ladies.
The colonel spent a delightful evening in the company
of his friends. The supper was typically Southern, and
the cook evidently a good one. There was smothered
chicken, light biscuit, fresh eggs, poundcake and tea.
The tablecloth and napkins were of fine linen. That
they were soft and smooth the colonel noticed, but he did
not observe closely enough to see that they had been care-
fully darned in many places. The silver spoons were of
fine, old-fashioned patterns, worn very thin — so thin that
even the colonel was struck by their fragility. How
charming, he thought, to prefer the simple dignity
of the past to the vulgar ostentation of a more modern
time. He had once dined off a golden dinner service, at the
table of a multi-millionaire, and had not enjoyed the meal
half so much. The dining room looked out upon the
garden and the perfume of lilac and violet stole in through
the open windows. A soft-footed, shapely, well-trained
negro maid, in white cap and apron, waited deftly upon
the table; a woman of serious countenance — so serious
that the colonel wondered if she were a present-day type
of her race, and if the responsibilities of freedom had
robbed her people of their traditional light-heartedness
After supper they sat out upon the piazza. The lights
within were turned down low, so that the moths and
other insects might not be attracted. Sweet odours
from the garden filled the air. Through the elms the
stars, brighter than in more northern latitudes, looked out
46 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
from a sky of darker blue; so bright were they that the
colonel, looking around for the moon, was surprised to
find that luminary invisible. On the green background
of the foliage the fireflies glowed and flickered. There
was no strident steam whistle from factory or train to
assault the ear, no rumble of passing cabs or street cars.
Far away, in some distant part of the straggling town, a
sweet-toned bell sounded the hour of an evening church
"To see you is a breath from the past, Henry," said
Mrs. Treadwell. "You are a fine, strong man now, but
I can see you as you were, the day you went away to the
war, in your new gray uniform, on your fine gray horse,
at the head of your company. You were going to take
Peter with you, but he had got his feet poisoned with poison
ivy, and couldn't walk, and your father gave you another
boy, and Peter cried like a baby at being left behind. I
can remember how proud you were, and how proud your
father was, when he gave you his sword — your grand-
father's sword, and told you never to draw it or sheath it,
except in honour; and how, when you were gone, the old
gentleman shut himself up for two whole days and would
speak to no one. He was glad and sorry — glad to send
you to fight for your country, and sorry to see you go — for
you were his only boy."
The colonel thrilled with love and regret. His father
had loved him, he knew very well, and he had not visited
his tomb for twenty-five years. How far away it seemed
too, the time when he had thought of the Confederacy as
his country! And the sword, his grandfather's sword,
had been for years stored away in a dark closet. His
father had kept it displayed upon the drawing-room wall,
over the table on which the family Bible had rested.
Mrs. Treadwell was silent for a moment.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 47
"Times have changed since then, Henry. We have
lost a great deal, although we still have enough — yes, we
have plenty to live upon, and to hold up our heads among
Miss Laura and Graciella, behind the colonel's back,
exchanged meaning glances. How well they knew how
little they had to live upon!
"That is quite evident," said the colonel, glancing
through the window at the tasteful interior, "and I am
glad to see that you have fared so well. My father lost
"We were more fortunate," said Mrs. Treadwell. "We
were obliged to let Belleview go when Major Treadwell
died — there were debts to be paid, and we were robbed
as well — but we have several rentable properties in town,
and an estate in the country which brings us in an income.
But things are not quite what they used to be ! "
Mrs. Treadwell sighed, and nodded. Miss Laura sat
in silence — a pensive silence. She, too, remembered
the time gone by, but unlike her mother's life, her own
had only begun as the good times were ending. Her
mother, in her youth, had seen something of the world.
The daughter of a wealthy planter, she had spent her
summers at Saratoga, had visited New York and Phila-
delphia and New Orleans, and had taken a voyage to
Europe. Graciella was young and beautiful. Her prince
might come, might be here even now, if this grand gentle-
man should chance to throw the handkerchief. But she,
Laura, had passed her youth in a transition period; the
pleasures neither of memory nor of hope had been hers —
except such memories as came of duty well performed,
and such hopes as had no root in anything earthly or cor-
Graciella was not in a reflective mood, and took up the
48 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
burden of the conversation where her grandmother had
dropped it. Her thoughts were not of the past, but of
the future. She asked many eager questions of New
York. Was it true that ladies at the Waldorf-Astoria
always went to dinner in low-cut bodices with short
sleeves, and was evening dress always required at the
theatre? Did the old Knickerbocker families recognise
the Vanderbilts? Were the Rockefellers anything at all
socially? Did he know Ward McAllister, at that period
the Beau Brummel of the metropolitan smart set ? Was
Fifth Avenue losing its pre-eminence ? On what days of
the week was the Art Museum free to the public ? What
was the fare to New York, and the best quarter of the city
in which to inquire for a quiet, select boarding house where
a Southern lady of refinement and good family might stay
at a reasonable price, and meet some nice people? And
would he recommend stenography or magazine work,
and which did he consider preferable, as a career which
such a young lady might follow without injury to her
The colonel, with some amusement, answered these
artless inquiries as best he could; they came as a refresh-
ing foil to the sweet but melancholy memories of the past.
They were interesting, too, from this very pretty but very
ignorant little girl in this backward little Southern town.
She was a flash of sunlight through a soft gray cloud; a
vigorous shoot from an old moss-covered stump — she
was life, young life, the vital principle, breaking through
the cumbering envelope, and asserting its right to reach
After a while a couple of very young ladies, friends of
Graciella, dropped in. They were introduced to the
colonel, who found that he had known their fathers, or
their mothers, or their grandfathers, or their grandmothers,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 49
and that many of them were more or less distantly related.
A little later a couple of young men, friends of Graciella's
friends — also very young, and very self-conscious — made
their appearance, and were duly introduced, in person
and by pedigree. The conversation languished for a
moment, and then one of the young ladies said something
about music, and one of the young men remarked that
he had brought over a new song. Graciella begged the
colonel to excuse them, and led the way to the parlour,
followed by her young friends.
Mrs. Treadwell had fallen asleep, and was leaning
comfortably back in her armchair. Miss Laura excused
herself, brought a veil, and laid it softly across her mother's
"The night air is not damp," she said, "and it is pleas-
anter for her here than in the house. She won't mind the
music; she is accustomed to it."
Graciella went to the piano and with great boldness
of touch struck the bizarre opening chords and then
launched into the grotesque words of the latest New York
"coon song," one of the first and worst of its kind, and
the other young people joined in the chorus.
It was the first discordant note. At home, the colonel
subscribed to the opera, and enjoyed the music. A
plantation song of the olden time, as he remembered it,
borne upon the evening air, when sung by the tired slaves
at the end of their day of toil, would have been pleasing,
with its simple melody, its plaintive minor strains, its
notes of vague longing; but to the colonel's senses there
was to-night no music in this hackneyed popular favourite.
In a metropolitan music hall, gaudily bedecked and
brilliantly lighted, it would have been tolerable from the
lips of a black-face comedian. But in this quiet place,
upon this quiet night, and in the colonel's mood, it seemed
50 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
like profanation. The song of the coloured girl, who
had dreamt that she dwelt in marble halls, and the rest,
had been less incongruous; it had at least breathed aspir-
Mrs. Tread well was still dozing in her armchair. The
colonel, beckoning Miss Laura to follow him, moved to
the farther end of the piazza, where they might not hear
the singers and the song.
"It is delightful here, Laura. I seem to have renewed
my youth. I yield myself a willing victim to the charm
of the old place, the old ways, the old friends."
"You see our best side, Henry. Night has a kindly
hand, that covers our defects, and the starlight throws
a glamour over everything. You see us through a haze
of tender memories. When you have been here a week,
the town will seem dull, and narrow, and sluggish. You
will find us ignorant and backward, worshipping our old
idols, and setting up no new ones; our young men leaving
us, and none coming in to take their place. Had you,
and men like you, remained with us, we might have hoped
for better things."
"And perhaps not, Laura. Environment controls the
making of men. Some rise above it, the majority do not.
We might have followed in the well-worn rut. But let us
not spoil this delightful evening by speaking of anything
sad or gloomy. This is your daily life; to me it is like a
scene from a play, over which one sighs to see the curtain
fall — all enchantment, all light, all happiness."
But even while he spoke of light, a shadow loomed up
beside them. The coloured woman who had waited at
the table came around the house from the back yard and
stood by the piazza railing.
"Miss Laura!" she called, softly and appealingly. "Kin
you come hyuh a minute ? "
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 51
"What is it, Catherine?"
"Kin I speak just a word to you, ma'am? It's some-
thin' partic'lar — mighty partic'lar, ma'am."
"Excuse me a minute, Henry," said Miss Laura,
rising with evident reluctance.
She stepped down from the piazza, and walked beside
the woman down one of the garden paths. The colonel,
as he sat there smoking — with Miss Laura's permission
he had lighted a cigar — could see the light stuff of the
lady's gown against the green background, though she
was walking in the shadow of the elms. From the mur-
mur which came to him, he gathered that the black woman
was pleading earnestly, passionately, and he could hear
Miss Laura's regretful voice, as she closed the interview:
"I am sorry, Catherine, but it is simply impossible. I
would if I could, but I cannot."
The woman came back first, and as she passed by an
open window, the light fell upon her face, which showed
signs of deep distress, hardening already into resignation
or despair. She was probably in trouble of some sort, and
her mistress had not been able, doubtless for some good
reason, to help her out. This suspicion was borne out
by the fact that when Miss Laura came back to him, she
too seemed troubled. But since she did not speak of the
matter, the colonel gave no sign of his own thoughts.
"You have said nothing of yourself, Laura," he said,
wishing to divert her mind from anything unpleasant.
"Tell me something of your own life — it could only be
a cheerful theme, for you have means and leisure, and a
perfect environment. Tell me of your occupations, your
hopes, your aspirations."
"There is little enough to tell, Henry," she returned,
with a sudden courage, "but that little shall be the truth.
You will find it out, if you stay long in town, and I would
52 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
rather you learned it from our lips than from others less
friendly. My mother is — my mother — a dear, sweet
woman to whom I have devoted my life! But we are not
well off, Henry. Our parlour carpet has been down for
twenty-five years; surely you must have recognised the
pattern! The house has not been painted for the same
length of time; it is of heart pine, and we train the flowers
and vines to cover it as much as may be, and there are
many others like it, so it is not conspicuous. Our rentable
property is three ramshackle cabins on the alley at the
rear of the lot, for which we get four dollars a month
each, when we can collect it. Our country estate is
a few acres of poor land, which we rent on shares, and
from which we get a few bushels of corn, an occasional
load of firewood, and a few barrels of potatoes. As for
my own life, I husband our small resources; I keep the
house, and wait on mother, as I have done since she
became helpless, ten years ago. I look after Graciella.
I teach in the Sunday School, and I give to those less for-
tunate such help as the poor can give the poor."
"How did you come to lose Belleview?" asked the
colonel, after a pause. "I had understood Major Tread-
well to be one of the few people around here who weathered
the storm of war and emerged financially sound."
"He did; and he remained so — until he met Mr.
Fetters, who had made money out of the war while
all the rest were losing. Father despised the slave-
trader's son, but admired his ability to get along.
Fetters made his acquaintance, flattered him, told him
glowing stories of wealth to be made by speculating in
cotton and turpentine. Father was not a business man,
but he listened. Fetters lent him money, and father lent
Fetters money, and they had transactions back and forth,
and jointly. Father lost and gained and we had no
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 53
inkling that he had suffered greatly, until, at his sudden
death, Fetters foreclosed a mortgage he held upon Belle-
view. Mother has always believed there was something
wrong about the transaction, and that father was not
indebted to Fetters in any such sum as Fetters claimed.
But we could find no papers and we had no proof, and
Fetters took the plantation for his debt. He changed
its name to Sycamore; he wanted a post-office there, and
there were too many Belleviews."
"Does he own it still?"
"Yes, and runs it — with convict labour! The thought
makes me shudder! We were rich when he was poor;
we are poor and he is rich. But we trust in God, who
has never deserted the widow and the fatherless. By
His mercy we have lived and, as mother says, held up our
heads, not in pride or haughtiness, but in self-respect,
for we cannot forget what we were."
"Nor what you are, Laura, for you are wonderful,"
said the colonel, not unwilling to lighten a situation that
bordered on intensity. "You should have married and
had children. The South needs such mothers as you
would have made. Unless the men of Clarendon have
lost their discernment, unless chivalry has vanished and
the fire died out of the Southern blood, it has not been
for lack of opportunity that your name remains un-
Miss Laura's cheek flushed unseen in the shadow of
"Ah, Henry, that would be telling! But to marry me,
one must have married the family, for I could not have
left them — they have had only me. I have not been
unhappy. I do not know that I would have had my life
Graciella and her friends bad finished their song, the
54 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
piano had ceased to sound, and the visitors were taking
their leave. Graciella went with them to the gate, where
they stood laughing and talking. The colonel looked at
his watch by the light of the open door.
"It is not late," he said. "If my memory is true, you
too played the piano when you — when I was young."
"It is the same piano, Henry, and, like our life here,
somewhat thin and weak of tone. But if you think it
would give you pleasure, I will play — as well as I know
She readjusted the veil, which had slipped from her
mother's face, and they went into the parlour. From
a pile of time-stained music she selected a sheet and seated
herself at the piano. The colonel stood at her elbow.
She had a pretty back, he thought, and a still youthful
turn of the head, and still plentiful, glossy brown hair.
Her hands were white, slender and well kept, though he
saw on the side of the forefinger of her left hand the tell-
tale marks of the needle.
The piece was an arrangement of the well-known air
from the opera of Maritana:
" Scenes that are brightest,
May charm awhile,
Hearts which are lightest
And eyes that smile.
Yet o'er them above us,
Though nature beam,
With none to love us,
How sad they seem ! "
Under her sympathetic touch a gentle stream of melody
flowed from the old-time piano, scarcely stronger toned
in its decrepitude, than the spinet of a former century.
A few moments before, under Graciella's vigorous hands,
it had seemed to protest at the dissonances it had been
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 55
compelled to emit; now it seemed to breathe the notes
of the old opera with an almost human love and tenderness.
It, too, mused the colonel, had lived and loved and was
recalling the memories of a brighter past.
The music died into silence. Mrs. Treadwell was awake.
"Laura!" she called.
Miss Treadwell went to the door.
"I must have been nodding for a minute. I hope
Colonel French did not observe it — it would scarcely
seem polite. He hasn't gone yet ?"
"No, mother, he is in the parlour."
"I must be going," said the colonel, who came to the
door. "I had almost forgotten Phil, and it is long past
Miss Laura went to wake up Phil, who had fallen
asleep after supper. He was still rubbing his eyes when
the lady led him out.
"Wake up, Phil," said the colonel. "It's time to be
going. Tell the ladies good night."
Graciella came running up the walk.
"Why, Colonel French," she cried, "you are not going
already? I made the others leave early so that I might
talk to you."
"My dear young lady," smiled the colonel, "I have
already risen to go, and if I stayed longer I might wear
out my welcome, and Phil would surely go to sleep again.
But I will come another time — I shall stay in town several
"Yes, do come, if you must go," rejoined Graciella with
emphasis. "I want to hear more about the North, and
about New York society and — oh, everything! Good
night, Philip. Good night, Colonel French."
"Beware of the steps, Henry," said Miss Laura, "the
bottom stone is loose."
56 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
They heard his footsteps in the quiet street, and Phil's
light patter beside him.
"He's a lovely man, isn't he, Aunt Laura?" said
"He is a gentleman," replied her aunt, with a pensive
look at her young niece."
"Of the old school," piped Mrs. Treadwell.
"And Philip is a sweet child," said Miss Laura.
"A chip of the old block," added Mrs. Treadwell. I
"Yes, mother, you can tell me when I've shut up the
house," interrupted Miss Laura. "Put out the lamps,
Graciella — there's not much oil — and when you go to bed
hang up your gown carefully, for it takes me nearly half
an hour to iron it."
"And you are right good to do it! Good night, dear
Aunt Laura! Good night, grandma!"
Mr. French had left the hotel at noon that day as free
as air, and he slept well that night, with no sense of the
forces that were to constrain his life. And yet the events
of the day had started the growth of a dozen tendrils,
which were destined to grow, and reach out, and seize
and hold him with ties that do not break.
The constable who had arrested old Peter led his pris-
oner away through alleys and quiet streets — though for
that matter all the streets of Clarendon were quiet in mid-
afternoon — to a guardhouse or calaboose, constructed of
crumbling red brick, with a rusty, barred iron door
secured by a heavy padlock. As they approached this
structure, which was sufficiently forbidding in appearance
to depress the most lighthearted, the strumming of a banjo
became audible, accompanying a mellow Negro voice
which was singing, to a very ragged ragtime air, words of
which the burden was something like this :
" Wat's de use er my wo'kin' so hahd ?
I got a' 'oman in de white man's yahd.
Wen she cook chicken, she save me a wing;
Wen dey 'low I'm wo'kin', I ain' doin' a thing! "
The grating of the key in the rusty lock interrupted the
song. The constable thrust his prisoner into the dimly
lighted interior, and locked the door.
"Keep over to the right," he said curtly, "that's the
"But, Mistah Haines," asked Peter, excitedly, "is I
got to stay here all night ? I ain' done nuthin'."
"No, that's the trouble; you ain't done nuthin' fer a
month, but loaf aroun'. You ain't got no visible means
of suppo't, so you're took up for vagrancy."
" But I does wo'k we'n I kin git any wo'k ter do," the old
man expostulated. "An' ef I kin jus' git wo'd ter de
58 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
right w'ite folks, I'll be outer here in half a' hour; dey'll
go my bail."
"They can't go yo' bail to-night, fer the squire's gone
home. I'll bring you some bread and meat, an' some
whiskey if you want it, and you'll be tried to-morrow
Old Peter still protested.
"You niggers are always kickm'," said the constable,
who was not without a certain grim sense of humour, and
not above talking to a Negro when there were no white
folks around to talk to, or to listen. "I never see people
so hard to satisfy. You ain' got no home, an' here I've
give' you a place to sleep, an' you're kickin'. You doan
know from one day to another where you'll git yo' meals,
an' I offer you bread and meat and whiskey — an' you're
kickin' ! You say you can't git nothin' to do, an' yit with
the prospect of a reg'lar.job befo' you to-morrer — you're
kickin' I I never see the beat of it in all my bo'n days."
When the constable, chuckling at his own humour, left
the guardhouse, he found his way to a nearby barroom,
kept by one Clay Jackson, a place with an evil reputation
as the resort of white men of a low class. Most crimes of
violence in the town could be traced to its influence, and
more than one had been committed within its walls.
"Has Mr. Turner been in here?" demanded Haines of
the man in charge.
The bartender, with a backward movement of his
thumb, indicated a door opening into a room at the rear.
Here the constable found his man — a burly, bearded
giant, with a red face, a cunning eye and an overbearing
manner. He had a bottle and a glass before him, and
was unsociably drinking alone.
"Howdy, Haines," said Turner, "How's things?
How many have you got this time ?
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 59
"I've got three rounded up, Mr. Turner, an' I'll take
up another befo' night. That'll make fo' — fifty dollars
fer me, an' the res' fer the squire."
"That's good," rejoined Turner. "Have a glass of
liquor. How much do you s'pose the Squire'll fine Bud ?"
"Well," replied Haines, drinking down the glass of
whiskey at a gulp, "I reckon about twenty-five dollars."
"You can make it fifty just as easy," said Turner.
"Niggers are all just a passell o' black fools. Bud would
'a' b'en out now, if it had n't be'n for me. I bought him
fer six months. I kept close watch of him for the first
five, and then along to'ds the middle er the las' month I
let on I'd got keerliss, an' he run away. Course I put
the dawgs on 'im, an' followed 'im here, where his woman
is, an' got you after 'im, and now he's good for six months
"The woman is a likely gal an' a good cook," said
Haines. "She'd be wuth a good 'eal to you out at the
"That's a shore fact," replied the other, "an' I need
another good woman to help aroun'. If we'd 'a' thought
about it, an' give' her a chance to hide Bud and feed him
befo' you took 'im up, we could 'a' filed a charge ag'inst
her for harborin' 'im."
"Well, I kin do it nex' time, fer he'll run away ag'in —
they always do. Bud's got a vile temper."
"Yes, but he's a good field-hand, and I'll keep his
temper down. Have somethin' mo' ?"
"I've got to go back now and feed the pris'ners," said
Haines, rising after he had taken another drink; "an' I'll
stir Bud up so he'll raise h — 11, an' to-morrow morning
I'll make another charge against him that'll fetch his fine
up to fifty and costs."
"Which will give 'im to me till the cotton crop is
60 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
picked, and several months more to work on the Jackson
Swamp ditch if Fetters gits the contract. You stand by
us here, Haines, an' help me git all the han's I can out o'
this county, and I'll give you a job at Sycamo' when yo'r
time's up here as constable. Go on and feed the niggers,
an' stir up Bud, and I'll be on hand in the mornin' when
When the lesser of these precious worthies left his
superior to his cups, he stopped in the barroom and bought
a pint of rotgut whiskey — a cheap brand of rectified
spirits coloured and flavoured to resemble the real article,
to which it bore about the relation of vitriol to lye. He
then went into a cheap eating house, conducted by a
Negro for people of his own kind, where he procured some
slices of fried bacon, and some soggy corn bread, and
with these various purchases, wrapped in a piece of brown
paper, he betook himself to the guardhouse. He un-
locked the door, closed it behind him, and called Peter.
The old man came forward.
"Here, Peter," said Haines, "take what you want of
this, and give some to them other fellows, and if there's
anything left after you've got what you want, throw it
to that sulky black hound over yonder in the corner."
He nodded toward a young Negro in the rear of the room,
the Bud Johnson who had been the subject of the conversa-
tion with Turner. Johnson replied with a curse. The
constable advanced menacingly, his hand moving toward
his pocket. Quick as a flash the Negro threw himself
upon him. The other prisoners, from instinct, or pru-
dence, or hope of reward, caught him, pulled him away
and held him off until Haines, pale with rage, rose to his
feet and began kicking his assailant vigorously. With
the aid of well-directed blows of his fists he forced the
Negro down, who, unable to regain his feet, finally, whether
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 61
from fear or exhaustion, lay inert, until the constable,
having worked off his worst anger, and not deeming it to
his advantage seriously to disable the prisoner, in whom
he had a pecuniary interest, desisted from further punish-
"I might send you to the penitentiary for this," he said,
panting for breath, "but I'll send you to h — 11 instead.
You'll be sold back to Mr. Fetters for a year or two to-
morrow, and in three months I'll be down at Sycamore
as an overseer, and then I'll learn you to strike a white
man, you "
The remainder of the objurgation need not be told, but
there was no doubt, from the expression on Haines's
face, that he meant what he said, and that he would take
pleasure in repaying, in overflowing measure, any arrears
of revenge against the offending prisoner which he might
consider his due. He had stirred Bud up very success-
fully — much more so, indeed, than he had really intended.
He had meant to procure evidence against Bud, but had
hardly thought to carry it away in the shape of a black eye
and a swollen nose.
When the colonel set out next morning for a walk down
the main street, he had just breakfasted On boiled brook
trout, fresh laid eggs, hot muffins and coffee, and was
feeling at peace with all mankind. He was alone, having
left Phil in charge of the hotel housekeeper. He had gone
only a short distance when he reached a door around
which several men were lounging, and from which came
the sound of voices and loud laughter. Stopping, he
looked with some curiosity into the door, over which there
was a faded sign to indicate that it was the office of a
Justice of the Peace — a pleasing collocation of words, to
those who could divorce it from any technical significance
— Justice, Peace — the seed and the flower of civilisation.
An unwashed, dingy-faced young negro, clothed in rags
unspeakably vile, which scarcely concealed his nakedness,
was standing in the midst of a group of white men,
toward whom he threw now and then a shallow and
shifty glance. The air was heavy with the odour of stale
tobacco, and the floor dotted with discarded portions of
the weed. A white man stood beside a desk and was
addressing the audience:
"Now, gentlemen, here's Lot Number Three, a likely
young nigger who answers to the name of Sam Brown.
Not much to look at, but will make a good field hand, if
looked after right and kept away from liquor; used to
workin', when in the chain gang, where he's been, off and
on, since he was ten years old. Amount of fine an' costs
thirty-seven dollars an' a half. A musical nigger, too,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 63
who plays the banjo, an' sings jus' like a — like a black-
bird. What am I bid for this prime lot?"
The negro threw a dull glance around the crowd with
an air of detachment which seemed to say that he was not
at all interested in the proceedings. The colonel viewed
the scene with something more than curious interest.
The fellow looked like an habitual criminal, or at least
like a confirmed loafer. This must be one of the idle and
worthless blacks with so many of whom the South was
afflicted. This was doubtless the method provided by
law for dealing with them.
"One year," answered a voice.
"Nine months," said a secon '
"Six months," came a third bid, from a tall man with a
buggy whip under his arm.
"Are you all through, gentlemen ? Six months' labour
for thirty-seven fifty is mighty cheap, and you know the
law allows you to keep the labourer up to the mark. Are
you all done? Sold to Mr. Turner, for Mr. Fetters, for
The prisoner's dull face showed some signs of apprehen-
sion when the name of his purchaser was pronounced, and
he shambled away uneasily under the constable's vigilant
"The case of the State against Bud Johnson is next in
order. Bring in the prisoner."
The constable brought in the prisoner, handcuffed, and
placed him in front of the Justice's desk, where he remained
standing. He was a short, powerfully built negro, seem-
ingly of pure blood, with a well-rounded head, not unduly
low irt the brow and quite broad between the ears. Under
different circumstances his countenance might have been
pleasing; at present it was set in an expression of angry
defiance. He had walked with a slight limp, there were
64 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
several contusions upon his face; and upon entering the
room he had thrown a defiant glance around him, which
had not quailed even before the stern eye of the tall man,
Turner, who, as the agent of the absent Fetters, had bid on
Sam Brown. His face then hardened into the blank
expression of one who stands in a hostile presence.
"Bud Johnson," said the justice, "you are charged with
escaping from the service into which you were sold to pay
the fine and costs on a charge of vagrancy. What do you
plead — guilty or not guilty ? "
The prisoner maintained a sullen silence.
"I'll enter a plea of not guilty. The record of this court
shows that you were convicted of vagrancy on December
26th, and sold to Mr. Fetters for four months to pay your
fine and costs. The four months won't be up for a week.
Mr. Turner may be sworn."
Turner swore to Bud's escape and his pursuit. Haines
testified to his capture.
"Have you anything to say?" asked the justice.
"What's de use er my sayin' anything," muttered the
Negro. "It won't make no diff'ence. I didn' do
nothin', in de fus' place,-ter be fine' fer, an' run away
'cause dey did n' have no right ter keep me dere."
"Guilty. Twenty-five dollars an' costs. You are also
charged with resisting the officer who made the arrest.
Guilty or not guilty ? Since you don't speak, I'll enter a
plea of not guilty. Mr. Haines may be sworn."
Haines swore that the prisoner had resisted arrest, and
had only been captured by the display of a loaded revolver.
The prisoner was convicted and fined twenty-five dollars
and costs for this second offense.
The third charge, for disorderly conduct in prison, was
quickly disposed of, and a fine of twenty-five dollars and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 65
"You may consider yo'self lucky," said the magistrate,
"that Mr. Haines didn't prefer a mo' serious charge against
you. Many a nigger has gone to the gallows for less.
And now, gentlemen, I want to clean this case up right
here. How much time is offered for the fine and costs of
the prisoner, Bud Johnson, amounting to seventy-five
dollars fine and thirty-three dollars and fifty-fo' cents
costs ? You've heard the evidence an' you see the nigger.
Ef there ain't much competition for his services and the
time is a long one, he'll have his own stubbornness an'
deviltry to thank for it. He's strong and healthy and able
to do good work for any one that can manage him."
There was no immediate response. Turner walked
forward and viewed the prisoner from head to foot with a
coldly sneering look.
"Well, Bud," he said, "I reckon we'll hafter try it ag'in.
I have never yet allowed a nigger to git the better o' me, an',
moreover, I never will. I'll bid eighteen months, Squire;
an' that's all he's worth, with his keep."
There was no competition, and the prisoner was knocked
down to Turner, for Fetters, for eighteen months.
" Lock 'im up till I'm ready to go, Bill," said Turner to
the constable, "an' just leave the irons on him. I'll fetch
'em back next time I come to town."
The unconscious brutality of the proceeding grated
harshly upon the colonel's nerves. Delinquents of some
kind these men must be, who were thus dealt with; but
he had lived away from the South so long that so sudden
an introduction to some of its customs came with something
of a shock. He had remembered the pleasant things, and
these but vaguely, since his thoughts and his interests
had been elsewhere ; and in the sifting process of a healthy
memory he had forgotten the disagreeable things alto-
gether. He had found the pleasant things still in existence,
66 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
faded but still fragrant. Fresh from a land of labour
unions, and of struggle for wealth and power, of strivings
first for equality with those above, and, this attained, for
a point of vantage to look down upon former equals, he
had found in old Peter, only the day before, a touching
loyalty to a family from which he could no longer expect
anything in return. Fresh from a land of women's clubs
and women's claims, he had reveled last night in the
charming domestic life of the old South, so perfectly
preserved in a quiet household. Things Southern, as he
had already reflected, lived long and died hard, and these
things which he saw now in the clear light of day, were also
of the South, and singularly suggestive of other things
Southern which he had supposed outlawed and discarded
"Now, Mr. Haines, bring in the next lot," said the
The constable led out an old coloured man, clad in a
quaint assortment of tattered garments, whom the colonel
did not for a moment recognise, not having, from where
he stood, a full view of the prisoner's face.
"Gentlemen, I now call yo'r attention to Lot Number
Fo', left over from befo' the wah; not much for looks, but
respectful and obedient, and accustomed, for some time
past, to eat very little. Can be made useful in many ways
— can feed the chickens, take care of the children, or would
make a good skeercrow. What I am bid, gentlemen, for
ol' Peter French ? The amount due the co't is twenty-
fo' dollahs and a half."
There was some laughter at the Squire's facetiousness.
Turner, who had bid on the young and strong men, turned
"You'd 'a' made a good auctioneer, Squire," said the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 67
"Thank you, Mr. Pearsall. How much am I offered
for this bargain?"
"He'd be dear at any price," said one.
"It's a great risk," observed a second.
"Ten yeahs," said a third.
"You're takin' big chances, Mr. Bennet," said another.
"He'll die in five, and you'll have to bury him."
"I withdraw the bid," said Mr. Bennet promptly.
"Two yeahs," said another.
The colonel was boiling over with indignation. His
interest in the fate of the other prisoners had been merely
abstract; in old Peter's case it assumed a personal
aspect. He forced himself into the room and to the front.
"May I ask the meaning of this proceeding?" he de-
"Well, suh," replied the Justice, "I don't know who you
are, or what right you have to interfere, but this is the sale
of a vagrant nigger, with no visible means of suppo't.
Perhaps, since you're interested, you'd like to bid on 'im.
Are you from the No'ih, likely ?"
"I thought, suh, that you looked like a No'the'n man.
That bein' so, doubtless you'd like somethin' on the Uncle
Tom order. Old Peter's fine is twenty dollars, and the
costs fo' dollars and a half. The prisoner's time is sold
to whoever pays his fine and allows him the shortest time
to work it out. When his time's up, he goes free."
"And what has old Peter done to deserve a fine of twenty
dollars — more money than he perhaps has ever had at
any one time?"
"'Deed it is, Mars Henry, 'deed it is!" exclaimed Peter,
"Peter has not been able," replied the magistrate, "to
show this co't that he has reg'lar employment, or means of
68 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
suppo't, and he was therefore tried and convicted yesterday
evenin' of vagrancy, under our State law. The fine is
intended to discourage laziness and to promote industry.
Do you want to bid, suh ? I'm offered two yeahs, gentle-
men, for old Peter French ? Does anybody wish to make
"I'll pay the fine," said the colonel, "let him go."
"I beg yo' pahdon, suh, but that wouldn't fulfil the
requi'ments of the law. He'd be subject to arrest again
immediately. Somebody must take the responsibility
for his keep."
"I'll look after him," said the colonel shortly.
"In order to keep the docket straight," said the justice,
"I should want to note yo' bid. How long shall I say?"
"Say what you like," said the colonel, drawing out his
"You don't care to bid, Mr. Turner?" asked the justice.
"Not by a damn sight," replied Turner, with native
elegance. I buy niggers to work, not to bury."
"I withdraw my bid in favour of the gentleman," said
the two-year bidder.
"Thank you," said the colonel.
"Remember, suh," said the justice to the colonel, " that
you are responsible for his keep as well as entitled to his
labour, for the period of your bid. How long shall I make
"As long as you please," said the colonel impatiently.
"Sold," said the justice, bringing down his gavel, "for
life, to — what name, suh?"
"French — Henry French."
There was some manifestation of interest in the crowd;
and the colonel was stared at with undisguised curiosity
as he paid the fine and costs, which included two dollars
for two meals in the guardhouse, and walked away with
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 69
his purchase — a purchase which his father had made, upon
terms not very different, fifty years before.
"One of the old Frenches," I reckon, said a bystander,
"come back on a visit."
"Yes," said another, "old 'ristocrats roun' here. Well,
they ought to take keer of their old niggers. They got all
the good out of 'em when they were young. But they're
not runnin' things now."
An hour later the colonel, driving leisurely about the
outskirts of the town and seeking to connect his memories
more closely with the scenes around him, met a buggy
in which sat the man Turner. After the buggy, tied
behind one another to a rope, like a coffle of slaves,
marched the three Negroes whose time he had bought at
the constable's sale. Among them, of course, was the
young man who had been called Bud Johnson. The
colonel observed that this Negro's face, when turned toward
the white man in front of him, expressed a fierce hatred,
as of some wild thing of the woods, which finding itself
trapped and betrayed, would go to any length to injure
Turner passed the colonel with no sign of recognition
Bud Johnson evidently recognised the friendly gentle-
man who had interfered in Peter's case. He threw toward
the colonel a look which resembled an appeal; but it was
involuntary, and lasted but a moment, and, when the
prisoner became conscious of it, and realised its useless-
ness, it faded into the former expression.
What the man's story was, the colonel did not know,
nor what were his deserts. But the events of the day had
furnished food for reflection. Evidently Clarendon needed
new light and leading. Men, even black men, with some-
thing to live for, and with work at living wages, would
70 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
scarcely prefer an enforced servitude in ropes and chains.
And the punishment had scarcely seemed to fit the crime.
He had observed no great zeal for work among the white
people since he came to town; such work as he had seen
done was mostly performed by Negroes. If idleness were
a crime, the Negroes surely had no monopoly if it.
Furnished with money for his keep, Peter was ordered
if again molested to say that he was in the colonel's
service. The latter, since his own plans were for the
present uncertain, had no very clear idea of what disposi-
tion he would ultimately make of the old man, but he
meant to provide in some way for his declining years.
He also bought Peter a neat suit of clothes at a clothing
store, and directed him to present himself at the hotel on
the following morning. The interval would give the
colonel time to find something for Peter to do, so that he
would be able to pay him a wage. To his contract with
the county he attached little importance; he had already
intended, since their meeting in the cemetery, to provide
for Peter in some way, and the legal responsibility was no
additional burden. To Peter himself, to whose homeless
old age food was more than philosophy, the arrangement
seemed entirely satisfactory.
Colonel French's presence in Clarendon had speedily
become known to the public. Upon his return to
the hotel, after leaving Peter to his own devices for
the day, he found several cards in his letter box, left
by gentlemen who had called, during his absence, to
The daily mail had also come in, and the colonel sat
down in the office to read it. There was a club notice,
and several letters that had been readdressed and for-
warded, and a long one from Kirby in reference to some
detail of the recent transfer. Before he had finished
72 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
reading these, a gentleman came up and introduced him-
self. He proved to be one John McLean, an old school-
mate of the colonel, and later a comrade-in-arms, though
the colonel would never have recognised a rather natty
major in his own regiment in this shabby middle-aged
man, whose shoes were run down at the heel, whose linen
was doubtful, and spotted with tobacco juice. The
major talked about the weather, which was cool for the
season; about the Civil War, about politics, and about the
Negroes, who were very trifling, the major said. While
they were talking upon this latter theme, there was some
commotion in the street, in front of the hotel, and looking
up they saw that a horse, attached to a loaded wagon, had
fallen in the roadway, and having become entangled in
the harness, was kicking furiously. Five or six Negroes
were trying to quiet the animal, and release him from
the shafts, while a dozen white men looked on and made
"An illustration," said the major, pointing through the
window toward the scene without, "of what we've got to
contend with. Six niggers can't get one horse up without
twice as many white men to tell them how. That's
why the South is behind the No'th. The niggers, in one
way or another, take up most of our time and energy.
You folks up there have half your work done before we
get our'n started."
The horse, pulled this way and that, in obedience to the
conflicting advice of the bystanders, only became more
and more intricately entangled. He had caught one foot
in a manner that threatened, with each frantic jerk, to
result in a broken leg, when the colonel, leaving his visitor
without ceremony, ran out into the street, leaned down,
and with a few well-directed movements, released the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 73
"Now, boys," he said, laying hold of the prostrate
animal, "give a hand here."
The Negroes, and, after some slight hesitation, one or
two white men, came to the colonel's aid, and in a moment,
the horse, trembling and blowing, was raised to its feet.
The driver thanked the colonel and the others who had
befriended him, and proceeded with his load.
When the flurry of excitement was over, the colonel went
back to the hotel and resumed the conversation with his
friend. If the new franchise amendment went through,
said the major, the Negro would be eliminated from
politics, and the people of the South, relieved of the fear of
"nigger domination," could give their attention to better
things, and their section would move forward along the
path of progress by leaps and bounds. Of himself the
major said little except that he had been an alternate
delegate to the last Democratic National Nominating
Convention, and that he expected to run for coroner at
the next county election.
"If I can secure the suppo't of Mr. Fetters in the prima-
ries," he said, "my nomination is assured, and a nomina-
tion is of co'se equivalent to an election. But I see there
are some other gentlemen that would like to talk to you,
and I won't take any mo' of yo' time at present.
"Mr. Blake," he said, addressing a gentleman with
short sidewhiskers who was approaching them, "have you
had the pleasure of meeting Colonel French?"
"No, suh," said the stranger, "I shall be glad to have
the honour of an introduction at your hands."
"Colonel French, Mr. Blake— Mr. Blake, Colonel
French. You gentlemen will probably like to talk to one
another, because you both belong to the same party, I
reckon. Mr. Blake is a new man roun' heah — come down
from the mountains not mo' than ten yeahs ago, an'
74 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
fetched his politics with him; but since he was born that
way we don't entertain any malice against him. Mo 'over,
he's not a 'Black and Tan Republican,' but a 'Lily
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Blake, taking the colonel's hand,
" I believe in white supremacy, and the elimination of the
nigger vote. If the National Republican Party would
only ignore the coloured politicians, and give all the offices
to white men, we'll soon build up a strong white Repub-
lican party. If I had the post-office here at Clarendon,
with the encouragement it ■ would give, and the aid of my
clerks and subo'dinates, I could double the white Repub-
lican vote in this county in six months."
The major had left them together, and the Lily White,
ere he in turn made way for another caller, suggested
delicately, that he would appreciate any good word that
the colonel might be able to say for him in influential
quarters — either personally or through friends who might
have the ear of the executive or those close to him — in
reference to the postmastership. Realising that the
present administration was a business one, in which
sentiment played small part, he had secured the endorse-
ment of the leading business men of the county, even that
of Mr. Fetters himself. Mr. Fetters was of course a
Democrat, but preferred, since the office must go to a
Republican, that it should go to a Lily White.
"I hope to see mo' of you, sir," he said, "and I take
pleasure in introducing the Honourable Henry Clay
Appleton, editor of our local newspaper, the Anglo-Saxon.
He and I may not agree on free silver and the tariff, but
we are entirely in harmony on the subject indicated by the
title of his newspaper. Mr. Appleton not only furnishes
all the news that's fit to read, but he represents this
county in the Legislature, along with Mr. Fetters, and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 75
he will no doubt be the next candidate for Congress from
this district. He can tell you all that's worth knowin'
The colonel shook hands with the editor, who had come
with a two-fold intent — to make the visitor's acquaintance
and to interview him upon his impressions of the South.
Incidentally he gave the colonel a great deal of infor-
mation about local conditions. These were not, he
admitted, ideal. The town was backward. It needed
capital to develop its resources, and it needed to be
rid of the fear of Negro domination. The suffrage in
the hands of the Negroes had proved a ghastly and
expensive joke for all concerned, and the public welfare
absolutely demanded that it be taken away. Even the
white Republicans were coming around to the same point
of view. The new franchise amendment to the State
constitution was receiving their unqualified support.
"That was a fine, chivalrous deed of yours this morning,
sir," he said, "at Squire Reddick's office. It was just
what might have been expected from a Southern gentle-
man; for we claim you, colonel, in spite of your long
"Yes," returned the colonel, "I don't know what I
rescued old Peter from. It looked pretty dark for him
there for a little while. I shouldn't have envied his fate
had he been bought in by the tall fellow who represented
your colleague in the Legislature. The law seems harsh."
"Well," admitted the editor, "I suppose it might seem
harsh, in comparison with your milder penal systems up
North. But you must consider the circumstances, and
make allowances for us. We have so many idle, ignorant
Negroes that something must be done to make them
work, or else they'll steal, and to keep them in their
place, or they would run over us. The law has been in
76 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
operation only a year or two, and is already having its
effect. I'll be glad to introduce a bill for its repeal, as
soon as it is no longer needed.
"You must bear in mind, too, colonel, that niggers
don't look at imprisonment and enforced labour in the
same way white people do — they are not conscious of any
disgrace attending stripes or the ball and chain. The
State is poor; our white children are suffering for lack of
education, and yet we have to spend a large amount of
money on the Negro schools. These convict labour con-
tracts are a source of considerable revenue to the State;
they make up, in fact, for most of the outlay for Negro
education — which I approve of, though I'm frank to say
that so far I don't see much good that's come from it. This
convict labour is humanely treated; Mr. Fetters has the
contract for several counties, and anybody who knows Mr.
Fetters knows that there's no kinder-hearted man in the
The colonel disclaimed any intention of criticising. He
had come back to his old home for a brief visit, to rest
and to observe. He was willing to learn and anxious to
please. The editor took copious notes of the interview,
and upon his departure shook hands with the colonel
The colonel had tactfully let his visitors talk, while he
listened, or dropped a word here and there to draw them
out. One fact was driven home to him by every one to
whom he had spoken. Fetters dominated the county
and the town, and apparently the State. His name was
on every lip. His influence was indispensable to every
political aspirant. His acquaintance was something to
boast of, and his good will held a promise of success.
And the colonel had once kicked the Honourable Mr.
Fetters, then plain Bill, in presence of an admiring audi-
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 77
ence, all the way down Main Street from the academy
to the bank! Bill had been, to all intents and purposes,
a poor white boy; who could not have named with cer-
tainty his own grandfather. The Honourable William was
undoubtedly a man of great ability. Had the colonel
remained in his native State, would he have been able,
he wondered, to impress himself so deeply upon the com-
munity? Would blood have been of any advantage,
under the changed conditions, or would it have been a
drawback to one who sought political advancement?
When the colonel was left alone, he went to look for
Phil, who was playing with the children of the landlord,
in the hotel parlour. Commending him to the care of the
Negro maid in charge of them, he left the hotel and called
on several gentlemen whose cards he had found in his
box at the clerk's desk. Their stores and offices were
within a short radius of the hotel. They were all glad
to see him, and if there was any initial stiffness or shyness
in the attitude of any one, it soon became the warmest
cordiality under the influence of the colonel's simple and
unostentatious bearing. If he compared the cut of their
clothes or their beards to his own, to their disadvantage,
or if he found their views narrow and provincial, he gave
no sign — their hearts were warm and their welcome
The colonel was not able to gather, from the conver-
sation of his friends, that Clarendon, or any one in the
town — always excepting Fetters, who did not live in the
town, but merely overshadowed it — was especially pros-
perous. There were no mills or mines in the neighbour-
hood, except a few grist mills, and a sawmill. The bulk
of the business consisted in supplying the needs of an
agricultural population, and trading in their products.
The cotton was baled and shipped to the North, and re-
78 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
imported for domestic use, in the shape of sheeting and
other stuffs. The corn was shipped to the North, and
came back in the shape of corn meal and salt pork, the
staple articles of diet. Beefsteak and butter were brought
from the North, at twenty-five and fifty cents a pound
respectively. There were cotton merchants, and corn and
feed merchants; there were dry-goods and grocery stores,
drug stores and saloons — and more saloons — and the
usual proportion of professional men. Since Clarendon
was the county seat, there were of course a court house
and a jail. There were churches enough, if all filled at
once, to hold the entire population of the town, and
preachers in proportion. The merchants, of whom a
number were Jewish, periodically went into bankruptcy;
the majority of their customers did likewise, and thus a
fellow-feeling was promoted, and the loss thrown back
as far as possible. The lands of the large farmers were
mostly mortgaged, either to Fetters, or to the bank of
which he was the chief stockholder, for all that could be
borrowed on them; while the small farmers, many of
whom were coloured, were practically tied to the soil by
ropes of debt and chains of contract.
Every one the colonel met during the afternoon had
heard of Squire Reddick's good joke of the morning.
That he should have sold Peter to the colonel for life was
regarded as extremely clever. Some of them knew old
Peter, and none of them had ever known any harm of
him, and they were unanimous in their recognition and
applause of the colonel's goodheartedness. Moreover,
it was an index of the colonel's views. He was one of
them, by descent and early associations, but he had been
away a long time, and they hadn't really known how
much of a Yankee he might have become. By his
whimsical and kindly purchase of old Peter's time — or
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 79
of old Peter, as they smilingly put it, he had shown his
appreciation of the helplessness of the Negroes, and of
their proper relations to the whites.
" What'll you do with him, Colonel ?" asked one gentle-
man. "An ole nigger like Peter couldn't live in the col'
No'th. You'll have to buy a place down here to keep
'im. They wouldn' let you own a nigger at the No'th."
The remark, with the genial laugh accompanying it, was
sounding in the colonel's ears, as, on the way back to the
hotel, he stepped into the barber shop. The barber, who
had also heard the story, was bursting with a desire to un-
bosom himself upon the subject. Knowing from ex-
perience that white gentlemen, in their intercourse with
coloured people, were apt to be, in the local phrase,
"sometimey," or uncertain in their moods, he first tested,
with a few remarks about the weather, the colonel's
amiability, and finding him approachable, proved quite
talkative and confidential.
"You're Colonel French, ain't you, suh?" he asked
as he began applying the lather.
"Yes, suh; I had heard you wuz in town, an' I wuz
hopin' you would come in to get shaved. An' w'en
I heard 'bout yo' noble conduc' this mawnin' at Squire
Reddick's I wanted you to come in all de mo', suh. Ole
Uncle Peter has had a lot er bad luck in his day, but he
has fell on his feet dis time, suh, sho's you bawn. I'm
right glad to see you, suh. I feels closer to you, suh,
than I does to mos' white folks, because you know, colonel,
I'm livin' in the same house you wuz bawn in."
"Oh, you are the Nichols, are you, who bought our old
"Yes, suh, William Nichols, at yo' service, suh. I've
own' de ole house fer twenty yeahs or mo' now, suh, an'
80 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
we've b'en mighty comfo'table in it, suh. They is a
spaciousness, an' a air of elegant sufficiency about the
environs and the equipments of the ed'fice, suh, that does
credit to the tas'e of the old aristocracy an' of you-all's
family, an' teches me in a sof spot. For I loves the aris-
tocracy; an' I've often tol' my ol' lady, 'Liza,' says I, *ef
I'd be'n bawn white I sho' would 'a' be'n a 'ristocrat.
I feels it in my bones.'"
While the barber babbled on with his shrewd flattery,
which was sincere enough to carry a reasonable amount
of conviction, the colonel listened with curiously mingled
feelings. He recalled each plank, each pane of glass, every
inch of wall, in the old house. No spot was without its
associations. How many a brilliant scene of gaiety had
taken place in the spacious parlour where bright eyes had
sparkled, merry feet had twinkled, and young hearts beat
high with love and hope and joy of living ! And not only
joy had passed that way, but sorrow. In the front upper
chamber his mother had died. Vividly he recalled, as
with closed eyes he lay back under the barber's skilful
hand, their last parting and his own poignant grief; for
she had been not only his mother, but a woman of
character, who commanded respect and inspired affection;
a beautiful woman whom he had loved with a devotion
that bordered on reverence.
Romance, too, had waved her magic wand over the old
homestead. His memory smiled indulgently as he re-
called one scene. In a corner of the broad piazza, he had
poured out his youthful heart, one summer evening, in
strains of passionate devotion, to his first love, a beautiful
woman of thirty who was visiting his mother, and who had
told him between smiles and tears, to be a good boy and
wait a little longer, until he was sure of his own mind.
Even now, he breathed, in memory, the heavy odour of the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 81
magnolia blossoms which overhung the long wooden
porch bench or "jogging board" on which the lady sat,
while he knelt on the hard floor before her. He felt very
young indeed after she had spoken, but her caressing
touch upon his hair had so stirred his heart that his vanity
had suffered no wound. Why, the family had owned the
house since they had owned the cemetery lot! It was
hallowed by a hundred memories, and now!
"Will you have oil on yo' hair, suh, or bay rum?"
"Nichols," exclaimed the colonel, "I should like to buy
back the old house. What do you want for it?"
"Why, colonel," stammered the barber, somewhat
taken aback at the suddenness of the offer, "I hadn'
r'ally thought 'bout sellin' it. You see, suh, I've had it
now for twenty years, and it suits me, an' my child'en
has growed up in it — an' it kind of has associations, suh."
In principle the colonel was an ardent democrat; he
believed in the rights of man, and extended the doctrine
to include all who bore the human form. But in fealing
he was an equally pronounced aristocrat. A servant's
rights he would have defended to the last ditch; familiarity
he would have resented with equal positiveness. Some-
thing of this ancestral feeling stirred within him now.
While Nichols's position in reference to the house was, in
principle, equally as correct as the colonel's own, and
superior in point of time — since impressions, like photo-
graphs, are apt to grow dim with age, and Nichols's were
of much more recent date — the barber's display of sen-
timent only jarred the colonel's sensibilities and strength-
ened his desire.
"I should advise you to speak up, Nichols," said the
colonel. "I had no notion of buying the place when I
came in, and I may not be of the same mind to-morrow.
Name your own price, but now's your time."
82 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
The barber caught his breath. Such dispatch was
unheard-of in Clarendon. But Nichols, a keen-eyed
mulatto, was a man of thrift and good sense. He would
have liked to consult his wife and children about the sale,
but to lose an opportunity to make a good profit was to
fly in the face of Providence. The house was very old.
It needed shingling and painting. The floors creaked;
the plaster on the walls was loose; the chimneys needed
pointing and the insurance was soon renewable. He
owned a smaller house in which he could live. He had
been told to name his price; it was as much better to
make it too high than too low, as it was easier to come
down than to go up. The would-be purchaser was a
rich man; the diamond on the third finger of his left hand
alone would buy a small house.
"I think, suh," he said, at a bold venture, "that fo'
thousand dollars would be 'bout right."
"I'll take it," returned the colonel, taking out his
pocket-book. "Here's fifty dollars to bind the bargain.
I'll write a receipt for you to sign."
The barber brought pen, ink and paper, and restrained
his excitement sufficiently to keep silent, while the colonel
wrote a receipt embodying the terms of the contract,
and signed it with a steady hand.
"Have the deed drawn up as soon as you like," said the
colonel, as he left the shop," and when it is done I'll
give you a draft for the money."
"Yes, suh; thank you, suh, thank you, colonel."
The barber had bought the house at a tax sale at a
time of great financial distress, twenty years before, for
five hundred dollars. He had made a very good sale, and
he lost no time in having 'he deed drawn up.
When the colonel reached the hotel, he found Phil
seated on the doorstep with a little bow-legged black boy
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 83
and a little white dog. Phil, who had a large heart, had
fraternised with the boy and fallen in love with the dog.
"Papa," he said, "I want to buy this dog. His name
is Rover; he can shake hands, and I like him very much.
This little boy wants ten cents for him, and I did not have
the money. I asked him to wait until you came. May
I buy him?"
"Certainly, Phil. Here, boy!"
The colonel threw the black boy a silver dollar. Phil
took the dog under his arm and followed his father into
the house, while the other boy, his glistening eyes glued
to the coin in his hand, scampered off as fast as his limbs
would carry him. He was back next morning with a pretty
white kitten, but the colonel discouraged any further pur-
chases for the time being.
"My dear Laura," said the colonel when he saw his
friend the same evening, "I have been in Clarendon two
days ; and I have already bought a dog, a house and a man."
Miss Laura was startled. "I don't understand," she
The colonel proceeded to explain the transaction by
which he had acquired, for life, the services of old Peter.
"I suppose it is the law," Miss Laura said, "but it
seems hardly right. I had thought we were well rid of
slavery. White men do not work any too much. Old
Peter was not idle. He did odd jobs, when he could get
them; he was po!ite and respectful; and it was an
outrage to treat him so. I am glad you — hired him."
"Yes — hired him. Moreover, Laura. I have bought
"A house! Then you are going to stay! I am so
glad! we shall all be so glad. What house ?"
"The old place. I went into the barber shop. The
84 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
barber complimented me on the family taste in architec-
ture, and grew sentimental about his associations with the
house. This awoke my associations, and the collocation
jarred — I was selfish enough to want a monopoly of the
associations. I bought the house from him before I
left the shop."
"But what will you do with it?" asked Miss Laura,
puzzled. "You could never live in it again — after a
"Why not? It is no less the old house because the
barber has reared his brood beneath its roof. There
were always Negroes in it when we were there — the place
swarmed with them. Hammer and plane, soap and
water, paper and paint, can make it new again. The
barber, I understand, is a worthy man, and has reared a
decent family. His daughter plays the piano, and sings:
' I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls,
With vassals and serfs by my side.'
I heard her as I passed there yesterday."
Miss Laura gave an apprehensive start.
"There were Negroes in the house in the old days,"
he went on unnoticing, "and surely a good old house,
gone farther astray than ours, might still be redeemed to
noble ends. I shall renovate it and live in it while I am
here, and at such times as I may return ; or if I should tire
of it, I can give it to the town for a school, or for a hospital
— there is none here. I should like to preserve, so far
as I may, the old associations — my associations. The
house might not fall again into hands as good as those
of Nichols, and I should like to know that it was
devoted to some use that would keep the old name alive
in the community."
"I think, Henry," said Miss Laura, "that if your visit
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 85
is long enough, you will do more for the town than if you
had remained here all your life. For you have lived in a
wider world, and acquired a broader view; and you have
learned new things without losing your love for the old."
The deed for the house was executed on Friday,
Nichols agreeing to give possession within a week. The
lavishness of the purchase price was a subject of much
remark in the town, and Nichols's good fortune was con-
gratulated or envied, according to the temper of each
individual. The colonel's action in old Peter's case had
made him a name for generosity. His reputation for wealth
was confirmed by this reckless prodigality. There were
some small souls, of course, among the lower whites who
were heard to express disgust that, so far, only " niggers "
had profited by the colonel's visit. The Anglo-Saxon,
which came out Saturday morning, gave a large amount
of space to Colonel French and his doings. Indeed, the
two compositors had remained up late the night before,
setting up copy, and the pressman had not reached home
until three o'clock; the kerosene oil in the office gave out,
and it was necessary to rouse a grocer at midnight to
replenish the supply — so far had the advent of Colonel
French affected the life of the town.
The Anglo-Saxon announced that Colonel Henry
French, formerly of Clarendon, who had won distinction
in the Confederate Army, and since the war achieved
fortune at the North, had returned to visit his birthplace
and his former friends. The hope was expressed that
Colonel French, who had recently sold out to a syndicate
his bagging mills in Connecticut, might seek investments
in the South, whose vast undeveloped resources needed
only the fructifying flow of abundant capital to make it
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 87
blossom like the rose. The New South, the Anglo-
Saxon declared, was happy to welcome capital and enter-
prise, and hoped that Colonel French might find, in
Clarendon, an agreeable residence, and an attractive
opening for his trained business energies. That some-
thing of the kind was not unlikely, might be gathered
from the fact that Colonel French had already repurchased,
from William Nichols, a worthy negro barber, the old
French mansion, and had taken into his service a former
servant of the family, thus foreshadowing a renewal of
local ties and a prolonged residence.
The conduct of the colonel in the matter of his old
servant was warmly commended. The romantic circum-
stances of their meeting in the cemetery, and the incident
in the justice's court, which were matters of public knowl-
edge and interest, showed that in Colonel French, should
he decide to resume his residence in Clarendon, his
fellow citizens would find an agreeable neighbour, whose
sympathies would be with the South in those diflfi ult
matters upon which North and South had so often been
at variance, but upoi which they were now rapidly
becoming one in*sentiment.
The colonel, whose active mind could not long remain
unoccupied, was busily engaged during the next week,
partly in making plans for the renovation of the old
homestead, partly in correspondence with Kirby con-
cerning the winding up of the loose ends of their former
business. Thus compelled to leave Phil to the care of
some one else, he had an excellent opportunity to utilise
Peter's services. When the old man, proud of his new
clothes, and relieved of any responsibility for his own
future, first appeared at the hotel, the colonel was ready
with a commission.
"Now, Peter," he said, "I'm going to prove my
88 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
confidence in you, and test your devotion to the family,
by giving you charge of Phil. You may come and
get him in the morning after breakfast — you can get
your meals in the hotel kitchen — and' take him to walk
in the streets or the cemetery; but you must be very
careful, for he is all I have in the world. In other words,
Peter, you are to take as good care of Phil as you did of
me when I was a little boy."
" I'll look aftuh 'im, Mars Henry, lak he wuz a lump er
pyo' gol'. Me an' him will git along fine, won't we, little
"Yes, indeed," replied the child. "I like you, Uncle
Peter, and I'll be glad to go with you."
Phil and the old man proved excellent friends, and the
colonel, satisfied that the boy would be well cared for,
gave his attention to the business of the hour. As soon
as Nichols moved out of the old house, there was a shaking
of the dry bones among the mechanics of the town. A
small army of workmen invaded the premises, and repairs
and improvements of all descriptions went rapidly forward
— much more rapidly than was usual in Clarendon, for the
colonel let all his work by contract, and by a system of
forfeits and premiums kept it going at high pressure. In
two weeks the house was shingled, painted inside and out,
the fences were renewed, the outhouses renovated, and
the grounds put in order.
The stream of ready money thus put into circulation by
the colonel, soon permeated all the channels of local enter-
prise. The barber, out of his profits, began the erection
of a row of small houses for coloured tenants. This
gave employment to masons and carpenters, and involved
the sale and purchase of considerable building material.
General trade felt the influence of the enhanced pros-
perity. Groceries, dry-goods stores and saloons, did a
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 89
thriving business. The ease with which the simply
organised community responded to so slight an inflow of
money and energy, was not without a pronounced influ-
ence upon the colonel's future conduct.
When his house was finished, Colonel French hired a
housekeeper, a coloured maid, a cook and a coachman,
bought several horses and carriages, and, having sent to
New York for his books and pictures and several articles
of furniture which he had stored there, began housekeeping
in his own establishment. Succumbing willingly to the
charm of old associations, and entering more fully into
the social life of the town, he began insensibly to think
of Clarendon as an established residence, where he would
look forward to spending a certain portion of each year.
The climate was good for Phil, and to bring up the boy
safely would be henceforth his chief concern in life. In
the atmosphere of the old town the ideas of race and blood
attained a new and larger perspective. It would be too
bad for an old family, with a fine history, to die out, and
Phil was the latest of the line and the sole hope of its
The colonel was conscious, somewhat guiltily conscious,
that he had neglected the South and all that pertained
to it — except the market for burlaps and bagging, which
several Southern sales agencies had attended to on behalf
of his firm. He was aware, too, that he had felt a certain
amount of contempt for its poverty, its quixotic devotion
to lost causes and vanished ideals, and a certain disgusted
impatience with a people who persistently lagged behind
in the march of progress, and permitted a handful of
upstart, blatant, self-seeking demagogues to misrepresent
them, in Congress and before the country, by intemperate
language and persistent hostility to a humble but large
and important part of their own constituency. But he
90 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
was glad to find that this was the mere froth upon the
surface, and that underneath it, deep down in the hearts
of the people, the currents of life flowed, if less swiftly,
not less purely than in more favoured places.
The town needed an element, which he could in a
measure supply by residing there, if for only a few weeks
each year. And that element was some point of contact
with the outer world and its more advanced thought.
He might induce some of his Northern friends to follow
his example; there were many for whom the mild climate
in Winter and the restful atmosphere at all seasons of the
year, would be a boon which correctly informed people
would be eager to enjoy.
Of the extent to which the influence of the Treadwell
household had contributed to this frame of mind,
the colonel was not conscious. He had received the
freedom of the town, and many hospitable doors
were open to him. As a single man, with an interesting
little motherless child, he did not lack for the smiles of
fair ladies, of which the town boasted not a few. But
Mrs. Treadwell's home held the first place in his affec-
tions. He had been there first, and first impressions are
vivid. They had been kind to Phil, who loved them all,
and insisted on Peter's taking him there every day. The
colonel found pleasure in Miss Laura's sweet simplicity
and openness of character; to which Graciella's vivacity
and fresh young beauty formed an attractive counter-
part; and Mrs. Treadwell's plaintive minor note had
soothed and satisfied Colonel French in this emotional
Indian Summer which marked his reaction from a long
and arduous business career.
In addition to a pronounced attractiveness of form
and feature, Miss Graciella Treadwell possessed a fine
complexion, a clear eye, and an elastic spirit. She was also
well endowed with certain other characteristics of youth;
among them ingenuousness, which, if it be a fault, experi-
ence is sure to correct; and impulsiveness, which even
the school of hard knocks is not always able to eradicate,
though it may chasten. To the good points of Graciella,
could be added an untroubled conscience, at least up to
that period when Colonel French dawned upon her hori-
zon, and for some time thereafter. If she had put herself
foremost in all her thoughts, it had been the unconscious
egotism of youth, with no definite purpose of self-seeking.
The things for which she wished most were associated
with distant places, and her longing for them had never
taken the form of envy of those around her. Indeed envy
is scarcely a vice of youth; it is a weed that flourishes best
after the flower of hope has begun to wither. Graciella's
views of life, even her youthful romanticism were sane
and healthful; but since she had not been tried in the
furnace of experience, it could only be said of her that she
belonged to the class, always large, but shifting like the
sands of the sea, who have never been tempted, and there-
fore do not know whether they would sin or not.
It was inevitable, with such a nature as Graciella's, in
such an embodiment, that the time should come, at some
important crisis of her life, when she must choose between
different courses; nor was it likely that ohe could avoid
92 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
what comes sometime to all of us, the necessity of choosing
between good and evil. Her liking for Colonel French had
grown since their first meeting. He knew so many things
that Graciella wished to know, that when he came to
the house she spent a great deal of time in conversation
with him. Her aunt Laura was often busy with house-
hold duties, and Graciella, as the least employed member
of the family, was able to devote herself to his enter-
tainment. Colonel French, a comparatively idle man at
this period, found her prattle very amusing.
It was not unnatural for Graciella to think that this
acquaintance might be of future value; she could
scarcely have thought otherwise. If she should ever go to
New York, a rich and powerful friend would be well
worth having. Should her going there be delayed very
long, she would nevertheless have a tie of friendship in
the great city, and a source to which she might at any
time apply for information. Her fondness for Colonel
French's society was, however, up to a certain time,
entirely spontaneous, and coloured by no ulterior purpose.
Her hope that his friendship might prove valuable was an
It was during this happy period that she was standing,
one day, by the garden gate, when Colonel French passed
by in his fine new trap, driving a spirited horse; and it
was with perfect candour that she waved her hand to him
"Would you like a drive?" he called.
" Wouldn't I ? " she replied. " Wait till I tell the folks."
She was back in a moment, and ran out of the gate and
down the steps. The colonel gave her his hand and she
sprang up beside him.
They drove through the cemetery, and into the outlying
part of the town, where there were some shaded woodland
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 93
stretches. It was a pleasant afternoon; cloudy enough to
hide the sun. Graciella's eyes sparkled and her cheek
glowed with pleasure, while her light brown hair blown
about her face by the breeze of their rapid motion was
like an aureole.
"Colonel French," she said as they were walking the
horse up a hill, "are you going to give a house warming?"
"Why," he said, "I hadn't thought of it. Ought I to
give a house warming?"
"You surely ought. Everybody will want to see your
house while it is new and bright. You certainly ought
to have a house warming."
"Very well," said the colonel. "I make it a rule to
shirk no plain duty. If I ought to have a house warming,
I will have it. And you shall be my social mentor. What
sort of a party shall it be ?"
"Why not make it," she said brightly, "just such a
party as your father would have had. You have the old
house, and the old furniture. Give an old-time party."
In fitting up his house the colonel had been animated
by the same feeling that had moved him to its purchase.
He had endeavoured to restore, as far as possible, the
interior as he remembered it in his childhood. At his
father's death the furniture had been sold and scattered.
He had been able, through the kindly interest of his
friends, to recover several of the pieces. Others that
were lost past hope, had been reproduced from their
description. Among those recovered was a fine pair of
brass andirons, and his father's mahogany desk, which
had been purchased by Major Treadwell at the sale of
the elder French's effects.
Miss Laura had been the first to speak of the desk.
"Henry," she had said, "the house would not be com-
94 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
plete without your father's desk. It was my father's too,
but yours is the prior claim. Take it as a gift from me."
He protested, and would have paid for it liberally, and,
when she would take nothing, declared he would not
accept it on such terms.
"You are selfish, Henry," she replied, with a smile.
"You have brought a new interest into our lives, and into
the town, and you will not let us make you any return."
"But I am taking from you something you need," he
replied, "and for which you paid. When Major Tread-
well bought it, it was merely second-hand furniture, sold
under the hammer. Now it has the value of an antique —
it is a fine piece and could be sold in New York for a large
"You must take it for nothing, or not at all," she
"It is highway robbery," he said, and could not make
up his mind to yield.
Next day, when the colonel went home, after having been
down town an hour, he found the desk in his library. The
Treadwell ladies had corrupted Peter, who had told them
when the colonel would be out of the house and had
brought a cart to take the desk away.
When the house was finished, the interior was simple
but beautiful. It was furnished in the style that had been
prevalent fifty years before. There were some modern
additions in the line of comfort and luxury — soft chairs,
fine rugs, and a few choice books and pictures — for the
colonel had not attempted to conform his own tastes and
habits to those of his father. He had some visitors,
mostly gentlemen, and there was, as Graciella knew,
a lively curiosity among the ladies to see the house
and its contents.
The suggestion of a house warming had come originally
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 95
from Mrs. Treadwell; but Graciella had promptly made
it her own and conveyed it to the colonel.
"A bright idea," he replied. " By all means let it be an old-
time party — say such a party as my father would have given,
or my grandfather. And shall we invite the old people ? "
"Well," replied Graciella judicially, "don't have them
so old that they can't talk or hear, and must be fed with
a spoon. If there were too many old, or not enough young
people, I shouldn't enjoy myself."
"I suppose I seem awfully old to you," said the colonel,
"Oh, I don't know," replied Graciella, giving him a
frankly critical look. "When you first came I thought
you were rather old — you see, you are older than Aunt
Laura; but you seem to have grown younger — it's curious,
but it's true — and now I hardly think of you as old at all."
The colonel was secretly flattered. The wisest man
over forty likes to be thought young.
"Very well," he said, "you shall select the guests."
"At an old-time party," continued Graciella, thought-
fully, "the guests should wear old-time clothes. In grand-
mother's time the ladies wore long flowing sleeves "
"And hoopskirts," said the colonel.
"And their hair down over their ears."
"Or in ringlets."
"Yes, it is all in grandmother's bound volume of The
Ladies' Book" said Graciella. "I was reading it only
"My mother took it," returned the colonel.
"Then you must have read 'Letters from a Pastry
Cook,' by N. P. Willis when they came out?"
"No," said the colonel with a sigh, "I missed that. I
— I wasn't able to read then."
96 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
Graciella indulged in a brief mental calculation.
"Why, of course not/' she laughed, "you weren't even
born when they came out! But they're fine; I'll lend you
our copy. You must ask all the girls to dress as their mothers
and grandmothers used to dress. Make the requirement
elastic, because some, of them may not have just the things
for one particular period. I'm all right. We have a
cedar chest in the attic, full of old things. Won't I look
funny in a hoop skirt?"
"You'll look charming in anything," said the colonel.
It was a pleasure to pay Graciella compliments, she so
frankly enjoyed them; and the colonel loved to make
others happy. In his New York firm Mr. French was
always ready to consider a request for an advance of salary;
Kirby had often been obliged to play the wicked partner
in order to keep expenses down to a normal level. At
parties debutantes had always expected Mr. French to
say something pleasant to them, and had rarely been dis-
The subject of the party was resumed next day at Mrs.
Treadwell's, where the colonel went in the afternoon to
"An old-time party," declared the colonel, "should have
old-time amusements. We must have a fiddler, a black
fiddler, to play quadrilles and the Virginia Reel."
"I don't know where you'll find one," said Miss Laura.
"I'll ask Peter," replied the colonel. "He ought to
Peter was in the yard with Phil
"Lawd, Mars Henry!" said Peter, "fiddlers is mighty
sca'ce dese days, but I reckon ole 'Poleon Campbell kin
make you shake yo' feet yit, ef Ole Man Rheumatiz ain'
ketched holt er 'im too tight."
"And I will play a minuet on your new piano," said
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 97
Miss Laura, "and teach the girls beforehand how to dance
it. There should be cards for those who do not dance."
So the party was arranged. Miss Laura, Graciella
and the colonel made out the list of guests. The invita-
tions were duly sent out for an old-time party, with old-
time costumes — any period between 1830 and 1860 per-
missible — and old-time entertainment.
The announcement created some excitement in social
circles, and, like all of Colonel French's enterprises at that
happy period of his home-coming, brought prosperity in
its train. Dressmakers were kept busy making and alter-
ing costumes for the ladies. Old Archie Christmas, the
mulatto tailor, sole survivor of a once flourishing craft —
Mr. Cohen's Universal Emporium supplied the general
public with ready-made clothing, and, twice a year, the
travelling salesman of a New York tailoring firm visited
Clarendon with samples of suitings, and took orders and
measurements — old Archie Christmas, who had not made
a full suit of clothes for years, was able, by making and
altering men's garments for the colonel's party, to earn
enough to keep himself alive for another twelve months.
Old Peter was at Archie's shop one day, and they were
talking about old times — good old times — for to old men
old times are always good times, though history may tell
"Yo' boss is a godsen' ter dis town," declared old
Archie, "he sho' is. De w'ite folks says de young niggers is
triflin' 'cause dey don' larn how to do nothin'. But what
is dere fer 'em to do ? I kin 'member when dis town was
full er black an' yaller'carpenters an' 'j'iners, blacksmiths,
wagon makers, shoemakers, tinners, saddlers an' cab 'net
makers. Now all de fu'nicher, de shoes, de wagons, de
buggies, de tinware, de hoss shoes, de nails to fasten 'em
on wid — yas, an' fo' de Lawd! even de clothes dat folks
98 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
wears on dere backs, is made at de Norf, an' dere am'
nothin' lef fer de ole niggers ter do, let 'lone de young
ones. Yo' boss is de right kin'; I hopes he'll stay 'roun'
here till you an' me dies."
"I hopes wid you," said Peter fervently, "I sho' does!
Yas indeed I does."
Peter was entirely sincere. Never in his life had he
worn such good clothes, eaten such good food, or led so
easy a life as in the colonel's service. Even the old times
paled by comparison with this new golden age; and the
long years of poverty and hard luck that stretched behind
him seemed to the old man like a distant and unpleasant
The party came off at the appointed time, and was a
distinct success. Graciella had made a raid on the
cedar chest, and shone resplendent in crinoline, curls,
and a patterned muslin. Together with Miss Laura and
Ben Dudley, who had come in from Mink Run for the
party, she was among the first to arrive. Miss Laura's
costume, which belonged to an earlier date, was in keeping
with her quiet dignity. Ben wore a suit of his uncle's,
which the care of old Aunt Viney had preserved wonder-
fully well from moth and dust through the years. The
men wore stocks and neckcloths, bell-bottomed trousers
with straps under their shoes, and frock coats very full at
the top and buttoned tightly at the waist. Old Peter, in a
long blue coat with brass buttons, acted as butler, helped
by a young Negro who did the heavy work. Miss Laura's
servant Catherine had rallied from her usual gloom and
begged the privilege of acting as lady's maid. 'Poleon
Campbell, an old-time Negro fiddler, whom Peter had
resurrected from some obscure cabin, oiled his rheumatic
joints, tuned his fiddle and rosined his bow, and under
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 99
the inspiration of good food and drink and liberal wage,
played through his whole repertory, which included such
ancient favourites as, "Fishers' Hornpipe," "Soldiers'
Joy," "Chicken in the Bread-tray," and the "Campbells
are Coming." Miss Laura played a minuet, which the
young people danced. Major McLean danced the high-
land fling, and scfme of the ladies sang old-time songs, and
war lyrics, which stirred the heart and moistened the eyes.
Little Phil, in a child's costume of 1840, copied from
the Ladies' Book, was petted and made much of for several
hours, until he became sleepy and was put to bed.
"Graciella," said the colonel to his young friend, during
the evening, "our party is a great success. It was your
idea. When it is all over, I want to make you a present in
token of my gratitude. You shall select it yourself; it
shall be whatever you say."
Graciella was very much elated at this mark of the
colonel's friendship. She did not dream of declining the
proffered token, and during the next dance her mind was
busily occupied with the question of what it should be —
a ring, a bracelet, a bicycle, a set of books ? She needed a
dozen things, and would have liked to possess a dozen
She had not yet decided, when Ben came up to
claim her for a dance. On his appearance, she was
struck by a sudden idea. Colonel French was a man of
affairs. In New York he must have a wide circle of in-
fluential acquaintances. Old Mr. Dudley was in failing
health; he might die at any time, and Ben would then be
free to seek employment away from Clarendon. What
better place for him than New York? With a position
there, he would be able to marry her, and take her there to
This, she decided, should be her request of the colonel
100 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
— that he should help her lover to a place in New York.
Her conclusion was really magnanimous. She might
profit by it in the end, but Ben would be the first
beneficiary. It was an act of self-denial, for she was giving
up a definite and certain good for a future contingency.
She was therefore in a pleasant glow of self-congratula-
tory mood when she accidentally overheard a conversation
not intended for her ears. She had run out to the dining-
room to speak to the housekeeper about the refreshments,
and was returning through the hall, when she stopped for a
moment to look into the library, where those who did not
care to dance were playing cards.
Beyond the door, with their backs turned toward her,
sat two ladies engaged in conversation. One was a widow,
a well-known gossip, and the other a wife known to be
unhappily married. They were no longer young, and
their views were marked by the cynicism of seasoned
"Oh, there's no doubt about it," said the widow. "He
came down here to find a wife. He tried a Yankee wife,
and didn't like the breed; and when he was ready for
number two, he came back South."
"He showed good taste," said the other.
"That depends," said the widow, "upon whom he
chooses. He can probably have his pick."
" No doubt," rejoined the married lady, with a touch of
sarcasm, which the widow, who was still under forty, chose
"I wonder which is it?" said the widow. "I suppose
it's Laura; he spends a great deal of time there, and she's
devoted to his little boy, or pretends to be."
"Don't fool yourself," replied the other earnestly, and
not without a subdued pleasure in disabusing the widow's
mind. "Don't fool yourself, my dear. A man of his age
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 101
doesn't marry a woman of Laura Treadwell's. Believe
me, it's the little one."
"But she has a beau. There's that tall nephew of old
Mr. Dudley's. He's been hanging around her for a year
or two. He looks very handsome to-night."
"Ah, well, she'll dispose of him fast enough when the
time comes. He*s only a poor stick, the last of a good
stock run to seed. Why, she's been pointedly setting her
cap at the colonel all the evening. He's perfectly infat-
uated; he has danced with her three times to once with
"It's sad to see a man make a fool of himself," sighed
the widow, who was not without some remnants of beauty
and a heart still warm and willing. "Children are very
"There's no fool like an old fool, my dear," replied the
other with the cheerful philosophy of the miserable who
love company, "These fair women are always selfish
and calculating; and she's a bold piece. My husband
says Colonel French is worth at least a million. A young
wife, who understands her business, could get anything
from him that money can buy."
"What a pity, my dear," said the widow, with a spice
of malice, seeing her own opportunity, "what a pity that
you were older than your husband! Well, it will be for-
tunate for the child if she marries an old man, for beauty
of her type fades early."
Old 'Poleon's fiddle, to which one of the guests was
improvising an accompaniment on the colonel's new piano,
had struck up " Camptown Races," and the rollicking lilt
of the chorus was resounding through the house.
" Gwine ter run all night,
Gwine ter run all day,
I'll bet my money on de bobtail nag,
Oh, who's gwine ter bet on de bay ? "
102 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
Ben ran out into the hall. Graciella had changed her
position and was sitting alone, perturbed in mind.
"Come on, Graciella, let's get into the Virginia reel; it's
the last one."
Graciella obeyed mechanically. Ben, on the contrary,
was unusually animated. He had enjoyed the party
better than any he had ever attended. He had not been
Colonel French, who had entered with zest into the spirit
of the occasion, participated in the reel. Every time
Graciella touched his hand, it was with the consciousness
of a new element in their relations. Until then her friend-
ship for Colonel French had been perfectly ingenuous.
She had liked him because he was interesting, and good
to her in a friendly way. Now sho realised that he
was a millionaire, eligible for marriage, from whom a
young wife, if she understood her business, might secure
the gratification of every wish.
The serpent had entered Eden. Graciella had been
tendered the apple. She must choose now whether she
When the party broke up, the colonel was congratulated
on every hand. He had not only given his guests a delight-
ful evening. He had restored an ancient landmark; had
recalled, to a people whose life lay mostly in the past, the
glory of days gone by, and proved his loyalty to their cher-
Ben Dudley walked home with Graciella. Miss Laura
went ahead of them with Catherine, who was cheerful in
the possession of a substantial reward for her services.
"You're not sayin' much to-night," said Ben to his
sweetheart, as they walked along under the trees.
Graciella did not respond.
"You're not sayin' much to-night," he repeated.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 103
"Yes," returned Graciella abstractedly, "it was a lovely
Ben said no more. The house warming had also given
him food for thought. He had noticed the colonel's
attentions to Graciella, and had heard them remarked
upon. Colonel French was more than old enough to be
Graciella's father; but he was rich. Graciella was poor
and ambitious. Ben's only assets were youth and hope,
and priority in the field his only claim.
Miss Laura and Catherine had gone in, and when the
young people came to the gate, the light still shone through
the open door.
"Graciella," he said, taking her hand in his as they
stood a moment, "will you marry me?"
"Still harping on the same old string," she said, with-
drawing her hand. "I'm tired now, Ben, too tired to talk
"Very well, I'll save it for next time. Good night,
She had closed the gate between them. He leaned over
it to kiss her, but she evaded his caress and ran lightly up
"Good night, Ben," she called.
"Good night, sweetheart," he replied, with a pang of
In after years, when the colonel looked back upon his
residence in Clarendon, this seemed to him the golden
moment. There were other times that stirred deeper
emotions — the lust of battle, the joy of victory, the chagrin
of defeat — moments that tried his soul with tests almost
too hard. But, thus far, his new career in Clarendon had
been one of pleasant experiences only, and this unclouded
hour was its fitting crown.
Whenever the colonel visited the cemetery, or took a
walk in that pleasant quarter of the town, he had to cross
the bridge from which was visible the site of the old Eureka
cotton mill of his boyhood, and it was not difficult to recall
that it had been, before the War, a busy hive of industry.
On a narrow and obscure street, little more than an alley,
behind the cemetery, there were still several crumbling
tenements, built for the mill operatives, but now occupied
by a handful of abjectly poor whites, who kept body and
soul together through the doubtful mercy of God and a
small weekly dole from the poormaster. The mill pond,
while not wide-spreading, had extended back some dis-
tance between the sloping banks, and had furnished
swimming holes, fishing holes, and what was more to the
point at present, a very fine head of water, which, as it
struck the colonel more forcibly each time he saw it,
offered an opportunity that the town could ill afford to
waste. Shrewd minds in the cotton industry had long
ago conceived the idea that the South, by reason of
its nearness to the source of raw material, its abundant
water power, and its cheaper labour, partly due to the
smaller cost of living in a mild climate, and the absence
of labour agitation, was destined in time to rival and
perhaps displace New England in cotton manufactur-
ing. Many Southern mills were already in successful
operation. But from lack of capital, or lack of enter-
prise, nothing of the kind had ever been undertaken
in Clarendon although the town was the centre of
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 105
a cotton-raising district, and there was a mill in an
adjoining county. Men who owned land mortgaged
it for money to raise cotton; men who rented land from
others mortgaged their crops for the same purpose.
It was easy to borrow money in Clarendon — on adequate
security — at ten per cent., and Mr. Fetters, the magnate of
the county, was always ready, the colonel had learned, to
accommodate the needy who could give such security. He
had also discovered that Fetters was acquiring the greater
part of the land. Many a farmer imagined that he owned
a farm, when he was, actually, merely a tenant of Fetters.
Occasionally Fetters foreclosed a mortgage, when there was
plainly no more to be had from it, and bought in the land,
which he added to his own holdings in fee. But as a rule,
he found it more profitable to let the borrower retain
possession and pay the interest as nearly as he could;
the estate would ultimately be good for the debt, if the
debtor did not live too long — worry might be counted
upon to shorten his days — and the loan, with interest,
could be more conveniently collected at his death. To
bankrupt an estate was less personal than to break an
individual; and widows, and orphans still in their minority,
did not vote and knew little about business methods.
To a man of action, like the colonel, the frequent
contemplation of the unused water power, which might
so easily be harnessed to the car of progress, gave
birth, in time, to a wish to see it thus utilised, and
the further wish to stir to labour the idle inhabitants of
the neighbourhood. In all work the shiftless methods
of an older generation still survived. No one could do
anything in a quarter of an hour. Nearly all tasks
were done by Negroes who had forgotten how to
work, or by white people who had never learned. But
the colonel had already seen the reviving effect of a
106 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
little money, directed by a little energy. And so he
planned to build a new and larger cotton mill where
the old had stood; to shake up this lethargic community;
to put its people to work, and to teach them habits of
industry, efficiency and thrift. This, he imagined, would
be pleasant occupation for his vacation, as well as a true
missionary enterprise — a contribution to human progress.
Such a cotton mill would require only an inconsiderable
portion of his capital, the body of which would be left
intact for investment elsewhere; it would not interfere at
all with his freedom of movement; for, once built, equipped
and put in operation under a competent manager, it would
no more require his personal oversight than had the New
England bagging mills which his firm had conducted for
so many years.
From impulse to action was, for the colonel's tem-
perament, an easy step, and he had scarcely moved
into his house, before he quietly set about investigating
the title to the old mill site. It had been forfeited many
years before, he found, to the State, for non-payment
of taxes. There having been no demand for the
property at any time since, it had never been sold, but
held as a sort of lapsed asset, subject to sale, but open
also, so long as it remained unsold, to redemption upon
the payment of back taxes and certain fees. The amount
of these was ascertained; it was considerably less than
the fair value of the property, which was therefore redeem-
able at a profit.
The owners, however, were widely scattered, for the
mill had belonged to a joint-stock company composed of a
dozen or more members. Colonel French was pleasantly
surprised, upon looking up certain musty public records
in the court house, to find that he himself was the owner,
by inheritance, of several shares of stock which had
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 107
been overlooked in the sale of his father's property.
Retaining the services of Judge Bullard, the leading
member of the Clarendon bar, he set out quietly to
secure options upon the other shares. This involved an
extensive correspondence, which occupied several weeks.
For it was necessary first to find, and then to deal with
the scattered representatives of the former owners.
In engaging Judge Bullard, the colonel had merely
stated to the lawyer that he thought of building a cotton-
mill, but had said nothing about his broader plan. It
was very likely, he recognised, that the people of Claren-
don might not relish the thought that they were regarded
as fit subjects for reform. He knew that they were sen-
sitive, and quick to resent criticism. If some of them
might admit, now and then, among themselves, that the
town was unprogressive, or declining, there was always
some extraneous reason given — the War, the carpet-
baggers, the Fifteenth Amendment, the Negroes. Per-
haps not one of them had ever quite realised the awful
handicap of excuses under which they laboured. Effort
was paralysed where failure was so easily explained.
That the condition of the town might be due to causes
within itself — to the general ignorance, self-satisfaction
and lack of enterprise, had occurred to only a favoured
few; the younger of these had moved away, seeking a
broader outlook elsewhere; while those who remained
were not yet strong enough nor brave enough to break
with the past and urge new standards of thought and
So the colonel kept his larger purpose to himself until a
time when greater openness would serve to advance it.
Thus Judge Bullard, not being able to read his client's
mind, assumed very naturally that the contemplated enter-
prise was to be of a purely commercial nature, directed to
making the most money in the shortest time.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 109
"Some day, Colonel," he said, with this thought in mind,
"you might get a few pointers by running over to Carthage
and looking through the Excelsior Mills. They get more
work there for less money than anywhere else in the South.
Last year they declared a forty per cent, dividend. I
know the superintendent, and will give you a letter of
introduction, whenever you like."
The colonel bore the matter in mind, and one morning,
a day or two after his party, set out by train, about eight
o'clock in the morning, for Carthage, armed with a letter
from the lawyer to the superintendent of the mills.
The town was only forty miles away; but a cow had
been caught in a trestle across a ditch, and some time was
required for the train crew to release her. Another
stop was made in the middle of a swamp, to put
off a light mulatto who had presumed on his complexion
to ride in the white people's car. He had been success-
fully spotted, but had impudently refused to go into
the stuffy little closet provided at the end of the car
for people of his class. He was therefore given an oppor-
tunity to reflect, during a walk along the ties, upon his
true relation to society. Another stop was made for a
gentleman who had sent a Negro boy ahead to flag the
train and notify the conductor that he would be along in
fifteen or twenty minutes with a couple of lady passengers.
A hot journal caused a further delay. These interrup-
tions made it eleven o'clock, a three-hours' run, before the
train reached Carthage.
The town was much smaller than Clarendon. It com-
prised a public square of several acres in extent, on one
side of which was the railroad station, and on another the
court house. One of the remaining sides was occupied by
a row of shops; the fourth straggled off in various direc-
tions. The whole wore a neglected air. Bales of cotton
110 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
goods were piled on the platform, apparently just unloaded
from wagons standing near. Several white men and
Negroes stood around and stared listlessly at the train
and the few who alighted from it.
Inquiring its whereabouts from one of the bystanders,
the colonel found the nearest hotel — a two-story frame
structure, with a piazza across the front, extending to the
street line. There was a buggy standing in front, its horse
hitched to one of the piazza posts. Steps led up from
the street, but one might step from the buggy to the floor
of the piazza, which was without a railing.
The colonel mounted the steps and passed through the
door into a small room, which he took for the hotel office,
since there were chairs standing against the walls, and at
one side a table on which a register lay open. The only
person in the room, beside himself, was a young man
seated near the door, with his feet elevated to the back of
another chair, reading a newspaper from which he did
not look up.
The colonel, who wished to make some inquiries and
to register for the dinner which he might return to take,
looked around him for the clerk, or some one in authority,
but no one was visible. While waiting, he walked over to
the desk and turned over the leaves of the dog-eared
register. He recognised only one name — that of Mr.
William Fetters, who had registered there only a day or
No one had yet appeared. The young man in the chair
was evidently not connected with the establishment. His
expression was so forbidding, not to say arrogant, and his
absorption in the newspaper so complete, that the colonel,
not caring to address him, turned to the right and crossed
a narrow hall to a room beyond, evidently a parlour, since it
was fitted up with a faded ingrain carpet, a centre table with
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 111
a red plush photograph album, and several enlarged crayon
portraits hung near the ceiling — of the kind made free of
charge in Chicago from photographs, provided the owner
orders a frame from the company. No one was in the
room, and the colonel had turned to leave it, when he
came face to face with a lady passing through the hall.
"Are you looking for some one?" she asked amiably,
having noted his air of inquiry.
"Why, yes, madam," replied the colonel, removing his
hat, "I was looking for the proprietor — or the clerk."
"Why," she replied, smiling, "that's the proprietor sit-
ting there in the office. I'm going in to speak to him, and
you can get his attention at the same time."
Their entrance did not disturb the young man's repose-
ful attitude, which remained as unchanged as that of a
graven image; nor did he exhibit any consciousness at their
"I want a clean towel, Mr. Dickson," said the lady
The proprietor looked up with an annoyed expression.
"Huh ?" he demanded, in a tone of resentment mingled
"A clean towel, if you please."
The proprietor said nothing more to the lady, nor
deigned to notice the colonel at all, but lifted his legs
down from the back of the chair, rose with a sigh, left the
room and returned in a few minutes with a towel, which
he handed ungraciously to the lady. Then, still paying
no attention to the colonel, he resumed his former
attitude, and returned to the perusal of his newspaper
— certainly the most unconcerned of hotel keepers,
thought the colonel, as a vision of spacious lobbies,
liveried porters, and obsequious clerks rose before
his vision. He made no audible comment, however, but
112 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
merely stared at the young man curiously, left the hotel,
and inquired of a passing Negro the whereabouts of the
livery stable. A few minutes later he found the place
without difficulty, and hired a horse and buggy.
While the stable boy was putting the harness on the
horse, the colonel related to the liveryman, whose manner
was energetic and business-like, and who possessed an
open countenance and a sympathetic eye, his experience
at the hotel.
"Oh, yes," was the reply, "that's Lee Dickson all over.
That hotel used to be kep' by his mother. She was a
widow woman, an' ever since she died, a couple of months
ago, Lee's been playin' the big man, spendin' the old lady's
money, and enjoyin' himself. Did you see that hoss'n'-
buggy hitched in front of the ho-tel ?"
"Well, that's Lee's buggy. He hires it from us. We
send it up every mornin' at nine o'clock, when Lee gits
up. When he's had his breakfas' he comes out an' gits
in the buggy, an' drives to the barber-shop nex' door, gits
out, goes in an' gits shaved, comes out, climbs in the buggy,
an' drives back to the ho-tel. Then he talks to the cook,
comes out an' gits in the buggy, an' drives half-way 'long
that side of the square, about two hund'ed feet, to the
grocery sto', and orders half a pound of coffee or a pound
of lard, or whatever the ho-tel needs for the day, then
comes out, climbs in the buggy and drives back. When
the mail comes in, if he's expectin' any mail, he drives
'cross the square to the post-office, an' then drives back
to the ho-tel. There's other lazy men roun' here, but Lee
Dickson takes the cake. However, it's money in our
pocket, as long as it keeps up."
"I shouldn't think it would keep up long," returned the
colonel. "How can such a hotel prosper?"
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 113
"It don't!" replied the liveryman, "but it's the best in
"I don't see how there could be a worse," said the
"There couldn't — it's reached bed rock."
The buggy was ready by this time, and the colonel set
out, with a black driver, to find the Excelsior Cotton Mills.
They proved to be situated in a desolate sandhill region
several miles out of town. The day was hot; the weather
had been dry, and the road was deep with a yielding white
sand into which the buggy tires sank. The horse soon
panted with the heat and the exertion, and the colonel,
dressed in brown linen, took off his hat and mopped his
brow with his handkerchief. The driver, a taciturn
Negro — most of the loquacious, fun-loving Negroes of
the colonel's youth seemed to have disappeared — flicked
a horsefly now and then, with his whip, from the horse's
The first sign of the mill was a straggling group of
small frame houses, built of unpainted pine lumber. The
barren soil, which would not have supported a firm lawn,
was dotted with scraggy bunches of wiregrass. In the
open doorways, through which the flies swarmed in and
out, grown men, some old, some still in the prime of life,
were lounging, pipe in mouth, while old women pottered
about the yards, or pushed back their sunbonnets to stare
vacantly at the advancing buggy. Dirty babies were
tumbling about the cabins. There was a lean and listless
yellow dog or two for every baby; and several slatternly
black women were washing clothes on the shady sides of
the houses. A general air of shiftlessness and squalor
pervaded the settlement. There was no sign of joyous
childhood or of happy youth.
A turn in the road brought them to the mill, the distant
114 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
hum of which had already been audible. It was a two-
story brick structure with many windows, altogether of
the cheapest construction, but situated on the bank of a
stream and backed by a noble water power.
They drew up before an open door at one corner of the
building. The colonel alighted, entered, and presented
his letter of introduction. The superintendent glanced at
him keenly, but, after reading the letter, greeted him with
a show of cordiality, and called a young man to conduct
the visitor through the mill.
The guide seemed in somewhat of a hurry, and reticent
of speech; nor was the noise of the machinery conducive
to conversation. Some of the colonel's questions seemed
unheard, and others were imperfectly answered. Yet
the conditions disclosed by even such an inspection were,
to the colonel, a revelation. Through air thick with flying
particles of cotton, pale, anaemic young women glanced
at him curiously, with lack-luster eyes, or eyes in which
the gleam was not that of health, or hope, or holiness.
Wizened children, who had never known the joys of
childhood, worked side by side at long rows of spools
to which they must give unremitting attention. Most
of the women were using snuff, the odour of which
was mingled with the flying particles of cotton, while
the floor was thickly covered with unsightly brown
When they had completed the tour of the mills and
returned to the office, the colonel asked some questions of
the manager about the equipment, the output, and the
market, which were very promptly and courteously an-
swered. To those concerning hours and wages the replies
were less definite, and the colonel went away impressed
as much by what he had not learned as by what he had
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 115
While settling his bill at the livery stable, he made
"Lord, yes," said the liveryman in answer to one of
them, " I can tell you all you want to know about that mill.
Talk about nigger slavery — the niggers never were worked
like white women and children are in them mills. They
work 'em from twelve to sixteen hours a day for from
fifteen to fifty cents. Them triflin' old pinelanders out there
jus' lay aroun' and raise children for the mills, and then
set down and chaw tobacco an' live on their children's
wages. It's a sin an' a shame, an' there ought to be a law
The conversation brought out the further fact that
vice was rampant among the millhands.
"An' it ain't surprisin'," said the liveryman, with
indignation tempered by the easy philosophy of hot
climates. "Shut up in jail all day, an' half the night,
never breathin' the pyo' air, or baskin' in God's bright
sunshine; with no books to read an' no chance to learn,
who can blame the po'r things if they have a little joy
in the only way they know ?"
"Who owns the mill?" asked the colonel.
"It belongs to a company," was the reply, "but Old
Bill Fetters owns a majority of the stock — durn, him!"
The colonel felt a thrill of pleasure — he had met a man
after his own heart.
"You are not one of Fetters 's admirers then ?" he asked.
"Not by a durn sight," returned the liveryman prompt-
ly. When I look at them white gals, that ought to be
rosy-cheeked an' bright-eyed an' plump an' hearty an'
happy, an' them po' little child'en that never get a chance
to go fishin' or swimmin' or to learn anything, I allow I
wouldn' mind if the durned old mill would catch fire an'
burn down. They work children there from six,years old
116 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
up, an' half of 'em die of consumption before they're
grown. It's a durned outrage, an' if I ever go to the
Legislatur', for which I mean to run, I'll try to have it
"I hope you will be elected," said the colonel. "What
time does the train go back to Clarendon?"
"Four o'clock, if she's on time — but it may be five."
"Do you suppose I can get dinner at the hotel?"
"Oh, yes! I sent word up that I 'lowed you might be
back, so they'll be expectin' you."
The proprietor was at the desk when the colonel went
in. He wrote his name on the book, and was served with
an execrable dinner. He paid his bill of half a dollar to
the taciturn proprietor, and sat down on the shady porch
to smoke a cigar. The proprietor, having put the money
in his pocket, came out and stepped into his buggy, which
was still standing alongside the piazza. The colonel
watched him drive a stone's throw to a barroom down
the street, get down, go in, come out a few minutes later,
wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, climb into the
buggy, drive back, step out and re-enter the hotel.
It was yet an hour to train time, and the colonel, to sat-
isfy an impulse of curiosity, strolled over to the court
house, which could be seen across the square, through the
trees. Requesting leave of the Clerk in the county
recorder's office to look at the records of mortgages, he
turned the leaves over and found that a large proportion
of the mortgages recently recorded — among them one
on the hotel property — had been given to Fetters.
The whistle of the train was heard in the distance as
the colonel recrossed the square. Glancing toward the
hotel, he saw the landlord come out, drive across the
square to the station, and sit there until the passengers
had alighted. To a drummer with a sample case, he
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 117
pointed carelessly across the square to the hotel, but
made no movement to take the baggage; and as the
train moved off, the colonel, looking back, saw him driving
back to the hotel.
Fetters had begun to worry the colonel. He had never
seen the man, and yet his influence was everywhere. He
seemed to brood over the country round about like a great
vampire bat, sucking the life-blood of the people. His touch
meant blight. As soon as a Fetters mortgage rested on a
place, the property began to run down ; for why should the
nominal owner keep up a place which was destined in the
end to go to Fetters? The colonel had heard grewsome
tales of Fetters 's convict labour plantation; he had seen
the operation of Fetters's cotton-mill, where white human-
ity, in its fairest and tenderest form, was stunted and
blighted and destroyed; and he had not forgotten the
scene in the justice's office.
The fighting blood of the old Frenches was stirred. The
colonel's means were abundant; he did not lack the
sinews of war. Clarendon offered a field for profitable
investment. He would like to do something for humanity,
something to offset Fetters and his kind, who were preying
upon the weaknesses of the people, enslaving white and
black alike. In a great city, what he could give away
would have been but a slender stream, scarcely felt in the
rivers of charity poured into the ocean of want; and even
his considerable wealth would have made him only a
small stockholder in some great aggregation of capital.
In this backward old town, away from the great centres of
commerce, and scarcely feeling their distant pulsebeat,
except when some daring speculator tried for a brief
period to corner the cotton market, he could mark with
his own eyes the good he might accomplish. It required
no great stretch of imagination to see the town, a few
118 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
years hence, a busy hive of industry, where no man, and
no woman obliged to work, need be without employment
at fair wages; where the trinity of peace, prosperity and
progress would reign supreme; where men like Fetters
and methods like his would no longer be tolerated. The
forces of enlightenment, set in motion by his aid, and
supported by just laws, should engage the retrogade
forces represented by Fetters. Communities, like men,
must either grow or decay, advance or decline; they could
not stand still. Clarendon was decaying. Fetters was
the parasite which, by sending out its roots toward rich
and poor alike, struck at both extremes of society, and
was choking the life of the town like a rank and deadly
The colonel could, if need be, spare the year or two of
continuous residence needed to rescue Clarendon from the
grasp of Fetters. The climate agreed with Phil, who was
growing like a weed; and the colonel could easily defer
for a little while his scheme of travel, and the further dis-
position of his future.
So, when he reached home that night, he wrote an
answer to a long and gossipy letter received from Kirby
about that time, in which the latter gave a detailed account
of what was going on in the colonel's favourite club and
among their mutual friends, and reported progress in the
search for some venture worthy of their mettle. The
colonel replied that Phil and he were well, that he was
interesting himself in a local enterprise which would cer-
tainly occupy him for some months, and that he would
not visit New York during the summer, unless it were to
drop in for a day or two on business and return imme-
A letter from Mrs. Jerviss, received about the same time,
was less easily disposed of. She had learned, from Kirby,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 119
of the chivalrous manner in which Mr. French had pro-
tected her interests and spared her feelings in the fight with
Consolidated Bagging. She had not been able, she said,
to thank him adequately before he went away, because she
had not known how much she owed him; nor could she
fittingly express herself on paper. She could only renew
her invitation to him to join her house party at Newport
in July. The guests would be friends of his — she would
be glad to invite any others that he might suggest. She
would then have the opportunity to thank him in person.
The colonel was not unmoved by this frank and grateful
letter, and he knew perfectly well what reward he might
claim from her gratitude. Had the letter come a few
weeks sooner, it might have had a different answer. But,
now, after the first pang of regret, his only problem was
how to refuse gracefully her offered hospitality. He was
sorry, he replied, not to be able to join her house party
that summer, but during the greater part of it he would be
detained in the South by certain matters into which he had
been insensibly drawn. As for her thanks, she owed him
none; he had only done his duty, and had already been
thanked too much.
So thoroughly had Colonel French entered into the spirit
of his yet undefined contest with Fetters, that his life in
New York, save when these friendly communications
recalled it, seemed far away, and of slight retrospective
interest. Every one knows of the "blind spot" in the
field of vision. New York was for the time being the
colonel's blind spot. That it might reassert its influence
was always possible, but for the present New York was
of no more interest to him than Canton or Bogota. Hav-
ing revelled for a few pleasant weeks in memories of a
remoter past, the reaction had projected his thoughts for-
ward into the future. His life in New York, and in the
120 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
Clarendon of the present — these were mere transitory
embodiments ; he lived in the Clarendon yet to be, a Clar-
endon rescued from Fetters, purified, rehabilitated; and no
compassionate angel warned him how tenacious of life that
which Fetters stood for might be — that survival of the
spirit of slavery, under which the land still groaned and
travailed — the growth of generations, which it would take
more than one generation to destroy.
In describing to Judge Bullard his visit to the cotton
mill, the colonel was not sparing of his indignation.
"The men," he declared with emphasis, "who are
responsible for that sort of thing, are enemies of mankind.
I've been in business for twenty years, but I have never
sought to make money by trading on the souls and bodies
of women and children. I saw the little darkies running
about the streets down there at Carthage; they were poor
and ragged and dirty, but they were out in the air and the
sunshine; they have a chance to get their growth; to go to
school and learn something. The white children are
worked worse than slaves, and are growing up dulled and
stunted, physically and mentally. Our folks down here
are mighty short-sighted, judge. We'll wake them up.
We'll build a model cotton mill, and run it with decent
hours and decent wages, and treat the operatives like
human beings with bodies to nourish, minds to develop,
and souls to save. Fetters and his crowd will have to
come up to our standard, or else we'll take their hands
Judge Bullard had looked surprised when the colonel
began his denunciation; and though he said little, his
expression, when the colonel had finished, was very
thoughtful and not altogether happy.
It was the week after the colonel's house warming.
Graciella was not happy. She was sitting, erect and
graceful, as she always sat, on the top step of the piazza.
Ben Dudley occupied the other end of the step. His
model stood neglected beside him, and he was looking
straight at Graciella, whose eyes, avoiding his, were bent
upon a copy of "Jane Eyre," held open in her hand.
There was an unwonted silence between them, which
Ben was the first to break.
"Will you go for a walk with me?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, Ben," she replied, "but I have an engage-
ment to go driving with Colonel French."
Ben's dark cheek grew darker, and he damned Colonel
French softly beneath his breath. He could not ask
Graciella to drive, for their old buggy was not fit to be
seen, and he had no money to hire a better one. The only
reason why he ever had wanted money was because of her.
If she must have money, or the things that money
alone would buy, he must get money, or lose her. As
long as he had no rival there was hope. But could
he expect to hold his own against a millionaire, who
had the garments and the manners of the great out-
"I suppose the colonel's here every night, as well as
every day," he said, "and that you talk to him all the
"No, Ben, he isn't here every night, nor every day.
His old darky, Peter, brings Phil over every day; but when
122 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the colonel comes he talks to grandmother and Aunt Laura,
as well as to me."
Graciella had risen from the step, and was now enthroned
in a splint-bottomed armchair, an attitude more in keep-
ing with the air of dignity which she felt constrained to
assume as a cloak for an uneasy conscience.
Graciella was not happy. She had reached the parting
of the ways, and realised that she must choose between
them. And yet she hesitated. Every consideration of
prudence dictated that she choose Colonel French rather
than Ben. The colonel was rich and could gratify all her
ambitions. There could be no reasonable doubt that he
was fond of her; and she had heard it said, by those more
experienced than she and therefore better qualified to
judge, that he was infatuated with her. Certainly he had
shown her a great deal of attention. He had taken her
driving; he had lent her books and music; he had brought
or sent the New York paper every day for her to read.
He had been kind to her Aunt Laura, too, probably for
her niece's sake; for the colonel was kind by nature, and
wished to make everyone about him happy. It was
fortunate that her Aunt Laura was fond of Philip. If
she should decide to marry the colonel, she would have
her Aunt Laura come and make her home with them:
she could give Philip the attention with which his step-
mother's social duties might interfere. It was hardly
likely that her aunt entertained any hope of marriage;
indeed, Miss Laura had long since professed herself re-
signed to old maidenhood.
But in spite of these rosy dreams, Graciella was not
happy. To marry the colonel she must give up Ben ; and
Ben, discarded, loomed up larger than Ben, accepted.
She liked Ben; she was accustomed to Ben. Ben was
young, and youth attracted youth. Other things being
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 123
equal, she would have preferred him to the colonel. But
Ben was poor; he had nothing and his prospects for
the future were not alluring. He would inherit little,
and that little not until his uncle's death. He had no
profession. He was not even a good farmer, and trifled
away, with his useless models and mechanical toys, the
time he might have spent in making his uncle's plantation
productive. Graciella did not know that Fetters had a
mortgage on the plantation, or Ben's prospects would
have seemed even more hopeless.
She felt sorry not only for herself, but for Ben as well —
sorry that he should lose her — for she knew that he loved
her sincerely. But her first duty was to herself. Con-
scious that she possessed talents, social and otherwise,
it was not her view of creative wisdom that it should
implant in the mind tastes and in the heart longings des-
tined never to be realised. She must discourage Ben —
gently and gradually, for of course he would suffer; and
humanity, as well as friendship, counselled kindness. A
gradual breaking off, too, would be less harrowing to her
"I suppose you admire Colonel French immensely,"
said Ben, with assumed impartiality.
" Oh, I like him reasonably well," she said with an equal
lack of candour. "His conversation is improving. He
has lived in the metropolis, and has seen so much of the
world that he can scarcely speak without saying something
interesting. It's a liberal education to converse with
people who have had opportunities. It helps to prepare
my mind for life at the North."
"You set a great deal of store by the North, Graciella.
Anybody would allow, to listen to you, that you didn't love
your own country."
"I love the South, Ben, as I loved Aunt Lou, my old
124 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
black mammy. I've laid in her arms many a day, and I
'most cried my eyes out when she died. But that didn't
mean that I never wanted to see any one else. Nor am I
going to live in the South a minute longer than I can help,
because its' too slow. And New York isn't all — I want to
travel and see the world. The South is away behind."
She had said much the same thing weeks before; but
then it had been spontaneous. Now she was purposely
trying to make Ben see how unreasonable was his hope.
Ben stood, as he obscurely felt, upon delicate ground.
Graciella had not been the only person to overhear remarks
about the probability of the colonel's seeking a wife in
Clarendon, and jealousy had sharpened Ben's perceptions
while it increased his fears. He had little to offer Graciella.
He was not well educated ; he had nothing to recommend
him but his youth and his love for her. He could not
take her to Europe, or even to New York — at least not yet.
"And at home," Graciella went on seriously, "at home
I should want several houses — a town house, a country
place, a seaside cottage. When we were tired of one
we could go to another, or live in hotels — in the winter in
Florida, at Atlantic City in the spring, at Newport in the
summer. They say Long Branch has gone out entirely."
Ben had a vague idea that Long Branch was by the sea-
side, and exposed to storms. "Gone out to sea?" he
asked absently. He was sick for love of her, and she was
dreaming of watering places.
" No, Ben," said Graciella, compassionately. Poor Ben
had so little opportunity for schooling! He was not to
blame for his want of knowledge; but could she throw
herself away upon an ignoramus? "It's still there, but
has gone out of fashion."
" Oh, excuse me ! I'm not posted on these fashionable
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 125
Ben relapsed into gloom. The model remained un-
touched. He could not give Graciella a house; he would
not have a house* until his uncle died. Graciella had
never seemed so beautiful as to-day, as she sat, dressed in
the cool white gown which Miss Laura's slender ringers had
done up, and with her hair dressed after the daintiest and
latest fashion chronicled in the Ladies' Fireside Journal.
No wonder, he thought, that a jaded old man of the world
like Colonel French should delight in her fresh young
But he would not give her up without a struggle. She
had loved him; she must love him still; and she would yet
be his, if he could keep her true to him or free from any
promise to another, until her deeper feelings could resume
their sway. It could not be possible, after all that had
passed between them, that she meant to throw him over,
nor was he a man that she could afford to treat in such
a fashion. There was more in him than Graciella imag-
ined; he was conscious of latent power of some kind,
though he knew not what, and something would surely
happen, sometime, somehow, to improve his fortunes.
And there was always the hope, the possibility of finding
the lost money.
He had brought his great-uncle Ralph's letter with
him, as he had promised Graciella. When she read it,
she would see the reasonableness of his hope, and might be
willing to wait, at least a little while. Any delay would
be a point gained. He shuddered to think that he might
lose her, and then, the day after the irrevocable vows had
been taken, the treasure might come to light, and all
their life be spent in vain regrets. Graciella was skeptical
about the lost money. Even Mrs. Treadwell, whose
faith had been firm for years, had ceased to encourage his
hope; while Miss Laura, who at one time had smiled at
126 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
any mention of the matter, now looked grave if by any
chance he let slip a word in reference to it. But he had
in his pocket the outward and visible sign of his inward
belief, and he would try its effect on Graciella. He would
risk ridicule or anything else for her sake.
"Graciella," he said, "I have brought my uncle Mal-
colm's letter along, to convince you that uncle is not as
crazy as he seems, and that there's some foundation for the
hope that I may yet be able to give you all you want.
I don't want to relinquish the hope, and I want you to
share it with me."
He produced an envelope, once white, now yellow
with time, on which was endorsed in ink once black but
faded to a pale brown, and hardly legible, the name of
"Malcolm Dudley, Esq., Mink Run," and in the lower
left-hand corner, "By hand of Viney."
The sheet which Ben drew from this wrapper was
worn at the folds, and required careful handling.
Graciella, moved by curiosity, had come down from
her throne to a seat beside Ben upon the porch. She
had never had any faith in the mythical gold of old Ralph
Dudley. The people of an earlier generation — her Aunt
Laura perhaps — may once have believed in it, but they
had long.since ceased to do more than smile pityingly and
shake their heads at the mention of old Malcolm's de-
lusion. But there was in it the element of romance.
Strange things had happened, and why might they not
happen again? And if they should happen, why not to
Ben, dear old, shiftless Ben ! She moved a porch pillow
close beside him, and, as they bent their heads over the
paper her hair mingled with his, and soon her hand
rested, unconsciously, upon his shoulder.
"It was a voice from the grave," said Ben, "for my
great-uncle Ralph was dead when the letter reached
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 127
Uncle Malcolm. I'll read it aloud — the writing is some-
times hard to make out, and I know it by heart :
My Dear Malcolm: I have in my hands fifty
thousand dollars of government money, in gold, which
I am leaving here at the house for a few days. Since
you are not at home, and I cannot wait, I have con-
fided in our girl Viney, whom I can trust. She
will tell you, when she gives you this, where I have
put the money — I do not write it, lest the letter
should fall into the wrong hands; there are many
to whom it would be a great temptation. I shall
return in a few days, and relieve you of the responsi-
bility. Should anything happen to me, write to the
Secretary of State at Richmond for instructions
what to do with the money. In great haste,
Your affectionate uncle,
Graciella was momentarily impressed by the letter; of
its reality there could be no doubt — it was there in black
and white, or rather brown and yellow.
"It sounds like a letter in a novel," she said, thought-
fully. "There must have been something."
"There must be something, Graciella, for Uncle Ralph
was killed the next day, and never came back for the
money. But Uncle Malcolm, because he don't know
where to look, can't find it; and old Aunt Viney, because
she can't talk, can't tell him where it is."
"Why has she never shown him?" asked Graciella.
"There is some mystery," he said, "which she seems
unable to explain without speech. And then, she is
queer — as queer, in her own way, as uncle is in his.
Now, if you'd only marry me, Graciella, and go out there
128 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
to live, with your uncommonly fine mind, you'd find it —
you couldn't help but find it. It would just come at
your call, like my dog when I whistle to him."
Graciella was touched by the compliment, or by the
serious feeling which underlay it. And that was very
funny, about calling the money and having it come! She
had often heard of people whistling for their money, but
had never heard that it came — that was Ben's idea. There
really was a good deal in Ben, and perhaps, after all
But at that moment there was a sound of wheels, and
whatever Graciella's thought may have been, it was not
completed. As Colonel French lifted the latch of the
garden gate and came up the walk toward them, any
glamour of the past, any rosy hope of the future, vanished
in the solid brilliancy of the present moment. Old Ralph
was dead, old Malcolm nearly so; the money had never
been found, would never come to light. There on the
doorstep was a young man shabbily attired, without means
or prospects. There at the gate was a fine horse, in a
handsome trap, and coming up the walk an agreeable,
well-dressed gentleman of wealth and position. No dead
romance could, in the heart of a girl of seventeen, hold
its own against so vital and brilliant a reality.
"Thank you, Ben," she said, adjusting a stray lock of
hair which had escaped, from her radiant crop, " I am not
clever enough for that. It is a dream. Your great-uncle
Ralph had ridden too long and too far in the sun, and
imagined the treasure, which has driven your Uncle Mal-
colm crazy, and his housekeeper dumb, and has benumbed
you so that you sit around waiting, waiting, when you
ought to be working, working! No, Ben, I like you ever so
much, but you will never take me to New York with your
Uncle Ralph's money, nor will you ever earn enough to take
me with your own. You must excuse me now, for here
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 129
comes my cavalier. Don't hurry away; Aunt Laura will
be out in a minute. You can stay and work on your
model; I'll not be here to interrupt you. Good evening,
Colonel French! Did you bring me a Herald? I want
to look at the advertisements."
"Yes, my dear young lady, there is Wednesday's — it is
only two days old. How are you, Mr. Dudley?"
"Tol'able, sir, thank you." Ben was a gentleman by
instinct, though his heart was heavy and the colonel a
"By the way," said the colonel, "I wish to have an
interview with your uncle, about the old mill site. He
seems to have been a stockholder in the company, and we
should like his signature, if he is in condition to give it. If
not, it may be necessary to appoint you his guardian, with
power to act in his place."
"He's all right, sir, in the morning, if you come early
enough," replied Ben, courteously. "You can tell what is
best to do after you've seen him."
"Thank you," replied the colonel, "I'll have my man
drive me out to-morrow about ten, say; if you'll be at
home ? You ought to be there, you know."
"Very well, sir, I'll be there all day, and shall expect
Graciella threw back one compassionate glance, as they
drove away behind the colonel's high-stepping brown
horse, and did not quite escape a pang at the sight of her
young lover, still sitting on the steps in a dejected attitude;
and for a moment longer his reproachful eyes haunted her.
But Graciella prided herself on being, above all things,
practical, and, having come out for a good time, resolutely
put all unpleasant thoughts aside.
There was good horse-flesh in the neighbourhood of
Clarendon, and the colonel's was of the best. Some of
130 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the roads about the town were good — not very well kept
roads, but the soil was a sandy loam and was self-draining,
so that driving was pleasant in good weather. The
colonel had several times invited Miss Laura to drive with
him, and had taken her once; but she was often obliged
to stay with her mother. Graciella could always be had,
and the colonel, who did not like to drive alone, found her
a vivacious companion, whose naive comments upon life
were very amusing to a seasoned man of the world. She
was as pretty, too, as a picture, and the colonel had always
admired beauty — with a tempered admiration.
At Graciella's request they drove first down Main
Street, past the post-office, where she wished to mail a let-
ter. They attracted much attention as they drove through
the street in the colonel's new trap. Graciella's billowy
white gown added a needed touch of maturity to her
slender youthfulness. A big straw hat shaded her brown
hair, and she sat erect, and held her head high, with a
vivid consciousness that she was the central feature of a
very attractive whole. The colonel shared her thought,
and looked at her with frank admiration.
"You are the cynosure of all eyes," he declared.
"I suppose I'm an object of envy to every young fellow in
Graciella blushed and bridled with pleasure. "I am
not interested in the young men of Clarendon," she replied
loftily; "they are not worth the trouble."
"Not even — Ben?" asked the colonel slyly.
"Oh," she replied, with studied indifference, "Mr.
Dudley is really a cousin, and only a friend. He comes
to see the family."
The colonel's attentions could have but one meaning,
and it was important to disabuse his mind concerning Ben.
Nor was she the only one in the family who entertained
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 131
that thought. Of late her grandmother had often addressed
her in an unusual way, more as a woman than as a child;
and, only the night before, had retold the old story of her
own sister Mary, who, many years before, had married a
man of fifty. He had worshipped her, and had died,
after a decent interval, leaving her a large fortune. From
which the old lady had deduced that, on the whole, it was
better to be an old man's darling than a young man's slave.
She had made no application of the story, but Graciella
was astute enough to draw her own conclusions.
Her Aunt Laura, too, had been unusually kind; she
had done up the white gown twice a week, had trimmed
her hat for her, and had worn old gloves that she might
buy her niece a new pair. And her aunt had looked at her
wistfully and remarked, with a sigh, that youth was a
glorious season and beauty a great responsibility. Poor
dear, good old Aunt Laura! When the expected hap-
pened, she would be very kind to Aunt Laura, and repay
her, so far as possible, for all her care and sacrifice.
It was only a short time after his visit to the Excelsior
Mills that Colonel French noticed a falling off in the
progress made by his lawyer, Judge Bullard, in procuring
the signatures of those interested in the old mill site, and
after the passing of several weeks he began to suspect that
some adverse influence was at work. This suspicion was
confirmed when Judge Bullard told him one day, with
some embarrassment, that he could no longer act for him
in the matter.
"I'm right sorry, Colonel," he said. "I should like to
help you put the thing through, but I simply can't afford
it. Other clients, whose business I have transacted for
years, and to whom I am under heavy obligations, have
intimated that they would consider any further activity of
mine in your interest unfriendly to theirs."
"I suppose," said the colonel, "your clients wish to
secure the mill site for themselves. Nothing imparts so
much value to a thing as the notion that somebody else
wants it: Of course, I can't ask you to act for me further,
and if you'll make out your bill, I '11 hand you a check."
"I hope," said Judge Bullard, "there'll be no ill-feeling
about our separation."
"Oh, no," responded the colonel, politely, "not at all.
Business is business, and a man's own interests are his
"I'm glad you feel that way," replied the lawyer, much
relieved. He had feared that the colonel might view the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 133
"Some men, you know," he said, "might have kept on,
and worked against you, while accepting your retainer;
there are such skunks at the bar."
"There are black sheep in every fold," returned the
colonel with a cold smile. "It would be unprofessional,
I suppose, to name your client, so I'll not ask you."
The judge did not volunteer the information, but the
colonel knew instinctively whence came opposition to
his plan, and investigation confirmed his intuition.
Judge Bullard was counsel for Fetters in all matters where
skill and knowledge were important, and Fetters held his
note, secured by mortgage, for money loaned. For
dirty work Fetters used tools of baser metal, but, like a
wise man, he knew when these were useless, and was
shrewd enough to keep the best lawyers under his control.
The colonel, after careful inquiry, engaged to take
Judge Bullard's place, one Albert Caxton, a member of a
good old family, a young man, and a capable lawyer, who
had no ascertainable connection with Fetters, and who, in
common with a small fraction of the best people, regarded
Fetters with distrust, and ascribed his wealth to usury
and to what, in more recent years, has come to be known
To a man of Colonel French's business training, oppo-
sition was merely a spur to effort. He had not run a race
of twenty years in the commercial field, to be worsted in
the first heat by the petty boss of a Southern backwoods
county. Why Fetters opposed him he did not know.
Perhaps he wished to defeat a possible rival, or merely to
keep out principles and ideals which would conflict with
his own methods and injure his prestige. But if Fetters
wanted a fight, Fetters should have a fight.
Colonel French spent much of his time at young Cax-
ton's office, instructing the new lawyer in the details of the
134 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
mill affair. Caxton proved intelligent, zealous, and sin-
gularly sympathetic with his client's views and plans.
They had not been together a week before the colonel
realised that he had gained immensely by the change.
The colonel took a personal part in the effort to procure
signatures, among others that of old Malcolm Dudley
and on the morning following the drive with Giaciella, he
drove out to Mink Run to see the old gentleman in person
and discover whether or not he was in a condition to
Before setting out, he went to his desk — his father's
desk, which Miss Laura had sent to him — to get certain
papers for old Mr. Dudley's signature, if the latter should
prove capable of a legal act. He had laid the papers on
top of some others which had nearly filled one of the
numerous small drawers in the desk. Upon opening the
drawer he found that one of the papers was missing.
The colonel knew quite well that he had placed the
paper in the drawer the night before; he remembered the
circumstance very distinctly, for the event was so near
that it scarcely required an exercise, not to say an effort,
of memory. An examination of the drawer disclosed that
the piece forming the back of it was a little lower than the
sides. Possibly, thought the colonel, the paper had slipped
off and fallen behind the drawer.
He drew the drawer entirely out, and slipped his hand
into the cavity. At the back of it he felt the corner of
a piece of paper projecting upward from below. The
paper had evidently slipped off the top of the others and
fallen into a crevice, due to the shrinkage of the wood
or some defect ofconstruction.
The opening for the drawer was so shallow that
though he could feel the end of the paper, he was unable
to get such a grasp of it as would permit him to secure it
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 135
easily. But it was imperative that he have the paper;
and since it bore already several signatures obtained with
some difficulty, he did not wish to run the risk of tearing it.
He examined the compartment below to see if perchance
the paper could be reached from there, but found that it
could not. There was evidently a lining to the desk, and the
paper had doubtless slipped down between this and the
finished panels forming the back of the desk. To reach
it, the colonel procured a screw driver, and turning the
desk around, loosened, with some difficulty, the screws that
fastened the proper panel, and soon recovered the paper.
With it, however, he found a couple of yellow, time-
stained envelopes, addressed on the outside to Major
John Tread well.
The envelopes were unsealed. He glanced into one
of them, and seeing that it contained a sheet, folded
small, presumably a letter, he thrust the two of them into
the breast pocket of his coat, intending to hand them to
Miss Laura at their next meeting. They were probably
old letters and of no consequence, but they should of
course be returned to the owners.
In putting the desk back in its place, after returning
the panel and closing the crevice against future accidents,
the colonel caught his coat on a projecting point and
tore a long rent in the sleeve It was an old coat, and
worn only about the house; and when he changed it before
leaving to pay his call upon old Malcolm Dudley, he
hung it in a back corner in his clothes closet, and did
not put it on again for a long time. Since he was very
busily occupied in the meantime, the two old letters to
which he had attached no importance, escaped his memory
The colonel's coachman, a young coloured man by the
name of Tom, had complained of illness early in the morn-«
136 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
ing, and the colonel took Peter along to drive him to Mink
Run, as well as to keep him company. On their way-
through the town they stopped at Mrs. Treadwell's, where
they left Phil, who had, he declared, some important
engagement with Graciella.
The distance was not long, scarcely more than five miles.
Ben Dudley was in the habit of traversing it on horseback,
twice a day. When they had passed the last straggling cabin
of the town, their way lay along a sandy road, flanked by
fields green with corn and cotton, broken by stretches of
scraggy pine and oak, growing upon land once under
cultivation, but impoverished by the wasteful methods of
slavery; land that had never been regenerated, and was now
no longer tilled. Negroes were working in the fields, birds
were singing in the trees. Buzzards circled lazily against
the distant sky. Although it was only early summer,
a languor in the air possessed the colonel's senses, and
suggested a certain charity toward those of his neighbours
— and they were most of them — who showed no marked
zeal for labour.
"Work," he murmured, "is best for happiness, but in
this climate idleness has its compensations. What, in
the end, do we get for all our labour?"
"Fifty cents a day, an' fin' yo'se'f, suh," said Peter,
supposing the soliloquy addressed to himself. "Dat's
w'at dey pays roun' hyuh."
When they reached a large clearing, which Peter pointed
out as their destination, the old man dismounted with
considerable agility, and opened a rickety gate that was
held in place by loops of rope. Evidently the entrance
had once possessed some pretensions to elegance,
for the huge hewn posts had originally been faced with
dressed lumber and finished with ornamental capitals,
some fragments of which remained; and the one massive
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 137
hinge, hanging by a slender rust-eaten nail, had been
wrought into a fantastic shape. As they drove through
the gateway, a green lizard scampered down from the top
of one of the posts, where he had been sunning himself,
and a rattlesnake lying in the path lazily uncoiled his
motley brown length, and sounding his rattle, wriggled
slowly off into the rank grass and weeds that bordered
the carriage track.
The house stood well back from the road, amid great
oaks and elms and unpruned evergreens. The lane by
which it was approached was partly overgrown with
weeds and grass, from which the mare's fetlocks swept
the dew, yet undried by the morning sun.
The old Dudley "mansion," as it was called, was a large
two-story frame house, built in the colonial style, with a
low-pitched roof, and a broad piazza along the front,
running the full length of both stories and supported by
thick round columns, each a solid piece of pine timber,
gray with age and lack of paint, seamed with fissures by
the sun and rain of many years. The roof swayed down-
ward on one side; the shingles were old and cracked and
moss-grown; several of the second story windows were
boarded up, and others filled with sashes from which
most of the glass had disappeared.
About the house, for a space of several rods on each side
of it, the ground was bare of grass and shrubbery, rough
and uneven, lying in little hillocks and hollows, as though
recently dug over at haphazard, or explored by some
vagrant drove of hogs. At one side, beyond this barren
area, lay a kitchen garden, enclosed by a paling fence.
The colonel had never thought of young Dudley as being
at all energetic, but so ill-kept a place argued shiftlessness
in a marked degree.
When the carriage had drawn up in front of the house,
138 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the colonel became aware of two figures on the long
piazza. At one end, in a massive oaken armchair, sat an
old man — seemingly a very old man, for he was bent and
wrinkled, with thin white hair hanging down upon his
shoulders. His face, of a highbred and strongly marked
type, emphasised by age, had the hawk-like contour, that
is supposed to betoken extreme acquisitiveness. His
faded eyes were turned toward a woman, dressed in a
homespun frock and a muslin cap, who sat bolt upright,
in a straight-backed chair, at the other end of the piazza,
with her hands folded on her lap, looking fixedly toward
her vis-a-vis. Neither of them paid the slightest attention
to the colonel, and when the old man rose, it was not to
step forward and welcome his visitor, but to approach and
halt in front of the woman.
"Viney," he said, sharply, "I am tired of this nonsense.
I insist upon knowing, immediately, where my uncle left
The woman made no reply, but her faded eyes glowed
for a moment, like the ashes of a dying fire, and her figure
stiffened perceptibly as she leaned slightly toward him.
"Show me at once, you hussy," he said, shaking his
fist, "or you'll have reason to regret it. I'll have you
whipped." His cracked voice rose to a shrill shriek as
he uttered the threat.
The slumbrous fire in the woman's eyes flamed up for
a moment. She rose, and drawing herself up to her full
height, which was greater than the old man's, made some
incoherent sounds, and bent upon him a look beneath
which he quailed.
"Yes, Viney, good Viney," he said, soothingly, "I
know it was wrong, and I've always regretted it, always,
from the very moment. But you shouldn't bear malice.
Servants, the Bible says, should obey their masters, and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 139
you should bless them that curse you, and do good to
them that despitefully use you. But I was good to you
before, Viney, and I was kind to you afterwards, and I
know you've forgiven me, good Viney, noble-hearted
Viney, and you're going to tell me, aren't you ?" he pleaded,
laying his hand caressingly upon her arm.
She drew herself away, but, seemingly mollified, moved
her lips as though in speech. The old man put his hand
to his ear and listened with an air of strained eagerness,
well-nigh breathless in its intensity.
"Try again, Viney," he said, "that's a good girl. Your
old master thinks a great deal of you, Viney. He is your
Again she made an inarticulate response, which he
nevertheless seemed to comprehend, for, brightening up
immediately, he turned from her, came down the steps
with tremulous haste, muttering to himself meanwhile,
seized a spade that stood leaning against the steps, passed
by the carriage without a glance, and began digging
furiously at one side of the yard. The old woman
watched him for a while, with a self-absorption that was
entirely oblivious of the visitors, and then entered the
The colonel had been completely absorbed in this cur-
ious drama. There was an air of weirdness and unreality
about it all. Old Peter was as silent as if he had
been turned into stone. Something in the atmosphere
conduced to somnolence, for even the horses stood still,
with no signs of restlessness. The colonel was the first
to break the spell.
" What's the matter with them, Peter ? Do you know ? "
"Dey's bofe plumb 'stracted, suh — clean out'n dey
min's — dey be'n dat way fer yeahs an' yeahs an' yeahs."
"That's Mr. Dudley, I suppose?"
14Q THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Yas, suh, dat's ole Mars Ma'com Dudley, de uncle er
young Mistah Ben Dudley w'at hangs 'roun Miss Grac'ella
"And who is the woman?"
"She's a bright mulattah 'oman, suh, w'at use' ter
b'long ter de family befo' de wah, an' has kep' house fer
ole Mars' Ma'com ever sence. He 'lows dat she knows
whar old Mars' Rafe Dudley, his uncle, hid a million
dollahs endyoin' de wah, an' huh tongue's paralyse' so
she can't tell 'im — an' he's be'n tryin' ter fin' out fer de
las' twenty-five years. I wo'ked out hyuh one summer on
plantation, an' I seen 'em gwine on like dat many an*
many a time. Dey don' nobody roun' hyuh pay no
'tention to 'em no mo', ev'ybody's so use' ter seein' 'em."
The conversation was interrupted by the appearance
of Ben Dudley, who came around the house, and, advan-
cing to the carriage, nodded to Peter, and greeted the
"Won't you 'light and come in ?" he asked.
The colonel followed him into the house, to a plainly
furnished parlour. There was a wide fireplace, with a
fine old pair of brass andirons, and a few pieces of old
mahogany furniture, incongruously assorted with half a
dozen splint-bottomed chairs. The floor was bare, and
on the walls half a dozen of the old Dudleys looked
out from as many oil paintings, with the smooth glaze
that marked the touch of the travelling artist, in the days
before portrait painting was superseded by photography
and crayon enlargements.
Ben returned in a few minutes with his uncle. Old
Malcolm seemed to have shaken off his aberration, and
greeted the colonel with grave politeness.
"I am glad, sir," he said, giving the visitor his hand,
"to make your acquaintance. I have been working in the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 141
garden — the flower-garden — for the sake of the exercise.
We have negroes enough, though they are very trifling
nowadays, but the exercise is good for my health. I have
trouble, at times, with my rheumatism, and with my —
my memory." He passed his hand over his brow as
though brushing away an imaginary cobweb.
"Ben tells me you have a business matter to present
The colonel, somewhat mystified, after what he had wit-
nessed, by this sudden change of manner, but glad to find
the old man seemingly rational, stated the situation in
regard to the mill site. Old Malcolm seemed to under-
stand perfectly, and accepted with willingness the colonel's
proposition to give him a certain amount of stock in the
new company for the release of such rights as he might
possess under the old incorporation. The colonel had
brought with him a contract, properly drawn, which was
executed by old Malcolm, and witnessed by the colonel
"I trust, sir," said Mr. Dudley, "that you will not
ascribe it to any discourtesy that I have not called to see
you. I knew your father and your grandfather. But the
cares of my estate absorb me so completely that I
never leave home. I shall send my regards to you now
and then by my nephew. I expect, in a very short time,
when certain matters are adjusted, to be able to give up, to
a great extent, my arduous cares, and lead a life of greater
leisure, which will enable me to travel and cultivate a
wider acquaintance. When that time comes, sir, I shall
hope to see more of you."
The old gentleman stood courteously on the steps
while Ben accompanied the colonel to the carriage. It
had scarcely turned into the lane when the colonel, looking
back, saw the old man digging furiously. The condition
142 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
of the yard was explained; he had been unjust in ascrib-
ing it to Ben's neglect.
"I reckon, suh," remarked Peter, "dat w'en he fin' dat
million dollahs, Mistah Ben'll marry Miss Grac'ella an'
take huh ter New Yo'k."
"Perhaps — and perhaps not," said the colonel. To
himself he added, musingly, "Old Malcolm will start on a
long journey before he finds the — million dollars. The
watched pot never boils. Buried treasure is never found
by those who seek it, but always accidentally, if at all."
On the way back they stopped at the Tread wells' for
Phil. Phil was not ready to go home. He was intensely
interested in a long-eared mechanical mule, constructed by
Ben Dudley out of bits of wood and leather and controlled
by certain springs made of rubber bands, by manipu-
lating which the mule could be made to kick furiously.
Since the colonel had affairs to engage his attention, and
Phil seemed perfectly contented, he was allowed to remain,
with the understanding that Peter should come for him in
Little Phil had grown very fond of old Peter, who
seemed to lavish upon the child all of his love and
devotion for the dead generations of the French family.
The colonel had taught Phil to call the old man "Uncle
Peter," after the kindly Southern fashion of slavery days,
which, denying to negroes the forms of address applied
to white people, found in the affectionate terms of relation-
ship — Mammy, Auntie and Uncle — designations that re- 1
cognised the respect due to age, and yet lost, when applied
to slaves, their conventional significance. There was a
strong sympathy between the intelligent child and the
undeveloped old negro ; they were more nearly on a mental
level, leaving out, of course, the factor of Peter's expe-
rience, than could have been the case with one more gener-
ously endowed than Peter, who, though by nature faithful,
had never been unduly bright. Little Phil became so
attached to his old attendant that, between Peter and the
Treadwell ladies, the colonel's housekeeper had to give
him very little care.
On Sunday afternoons the colonel and Phil and Peter
would sometimes walk over to the cemetery. The family
lot was now kept in perfect order. The low fence around
it had been repaired, and several leaning headstones
straightened up. But, guided by a sense of fitness, and
having before him the awful example for which Fetters
was responsible, the colonel had added no gaudy monu-
ment nor made any alterations which would disturb the
quiet beauty of the spot or its harmony with the surround-
144 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
ings. In the Northern cemetery where his young wife
was buried, he had erected to her memory a stately mau-
soleum, in keeping with similar memorials on every hand.
But here, in this quiet graveyard, where his ancestors
slept their last sleep under the elms and the willows, dis-
play would have been out of place. He had, however,
placed a wrought-iron bench underneath the trees, where
he would sit and read his paper, while little Phil questioned
old Peter about his grandfather and his great-grandfather,
their prowess on the hunting field, and the wars they
fought in; and the old man would delight in detailing, in
his rambling and disconnected manner, the past glories of
the French family. It was .always a new story to Phil,
and never grew stale to the old man. If Peter could be
believed, there were never white folks so brave, so learned,
so wise, so handsome, so kind to their servants, so just to
all with whom they had dealings. Phil developed a very
great fondness for these dead ancestors, whose graves and
histories he soon knew as well as Peter himself. With his
lively imagination he found pleasure, as children often
do, in looking into the future. The unoccupied space
in the large cemetery lot furnished him food for much
"Papa," he said, upon one of these peaceful afternoons,
"there's room enough here for all of us, isn't there — you,
and me and Uncle Peter?"
"Yes, Phil," said his father, "there's room for several
generations of Frenches yet to sleep with their fathers."
Little Phil then proceeded to greater detail. "Here,"
he said, "next to grandfather, will be your place, and here
next to that, will be mine, and here, next to me will be —
but no," he said, pausing reflectively, "that ought to be
saved for my little boy when he grows up and dies, that
is, when I grow up and have a little boy and he grows up
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 145
and grows old and dies and leaves a little boy and — but
where will Uncle Peter be ?"
"Nem mine me, honey," said the old man, "dey can
put me somewhar e'se. Hit doan' mattuh 'bout me."
"No, Uncle Peter, you must be here with the rest of us.
For you know, Uncle Peter, I'm so used to you now, that
I should want you to be near me then."
Old Peter thought to humour the lad. "Put me down
hyuh at de foot er de lot, little Mars' Phil, unner dis ellum
"Oh, papa," exclaimed Phil, demanding the colonel's
v attention, "Uncle Peter and I have arranged everything.
You know Uncle Peter is to stay with me as long as I
live, and when he dies, he is to be buried here at the foot
of the lot, under the elm tree, where he'll be near me
all the time, and near the folks that he knows and that
"All right, Phil. You see to it; you'll live longer."
" But, papa, if I should die first, and then Uncle Peter,
and you last of all, you'll put Uncle Peter near me, won't
"Why, bless your little heart, Phil, of course your daddy
will do whatever you want, if he's here to do it. But
you'll live, Phil, please God, until I am old and bent and
white-haired, and you are a grown man, with a beard, and
a little boy of your own."
"Yas, suh," echoed the old servant, "an' till ole Peter's
bones is long sence crumble' inter dus\ None er de
Frenches' ain' never died till dey was done growed up."
On the afternoon following the colonel's visit to Mink
Run, old Peter, when he came for Phil, was obliged to
stay long enough to see the antics of the mechanical mule;
and had not that artificial animal suddenly refused to
kick, and lapsed into a characteristic balkiness for which
146 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
there was no apparent remedy, it might have proved diffi-
cult to get Phil away.
"There, Philip dear, never mind," said Miss Laura,
"we'll have Ben mend it for you when he comes, next time,
and then you can play with it again."
Peter had brought with him some hooks and lines, and,
he and Phil, after leaving the house, followed the bank
of the creek, climbing a fence now and then, until they
reached the old mill site, upon which work had not yet
begun. They found a shady spot, and seating them-
selves upon the bank, baited their lines, and dropped them
into a quiet pool. For quite a while their patience was
unrewarded by anything more than a nibble. By and by
a black cat came down from the ruined mill, and sat down
upon the bank at a short distance from them.
"I reckon we'll haf ter move, honey," said the old
man. "We ain't gwine ter have no luck fishin' 'g'ins' no
ole black cat."
"But cats don't fish, Uncle Peter, do they?"
"Law', chile, you'll never know w'at dem critters kin
do, 'tel you's watched 'em long ez I has! Keep yo' eye
on dat one now."
The cat stood by the stream, in a watchful attitude.
Suddenly she darted her paw into the shallow water and
with a lightning-like movement drew out a small fish,
which she took in her mouth, and retired with it a few
yards up the bank.
"Jes' look at dat ole devil," said Peter, "playin' wid
dat fish jes' lack it wuz a mouse! She'll be comin' down
heah terreckly tellin' us ter go 'way fum her fishin'
"Why, Uncle Peter," said Phil incredulously, "cats
"Can't dey? Hoo said dey couldn'? Ain't Miss
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 147
Grac'ella an' me be'n tellin' you right along 'bout Bre'r
Rabbit and Bre'r Fox an de yuther creturs talkin' an'
gwine on jes' lak folks?"
"Yes, Uncle Peter, but those were just stories; they
didn't really talk, did they?"
"Law', honey," said the old man, with a sly twinkle
in his rheumy eye, "you is de sma'tes' little white boy I
ever knowed, but you is got a monst'us heap ter l'arn yit,
chile. Nobody ain' done tol' you 'bout de Black Cat an'
de Ha'nted House, is dey?"
"No, Uncle Peter— you tell me."
"I didn' knowed but Miss Grac'ella mought a tole you
— she knows mos' all de tales."
"No, she hasn't. You tell me about it, Uncle Peter."
"Well," said Peter, "does you 'member dat coal-black
man dat drives de lumber wagon ?"
"Yes, he goes by our house every day, on the way to the
"Well, it all happen' 'long er him. He 'uz gwine long
de street one day, w'en he heared two gent'emen — one
of 'em was ole Mars' Tom Sellers an' I fuhgot de yuther —
but dey 'uz talkin' 'bout dat ole h'anted house down by
de creek, 'bout a mile from hyuh, on de yuther side er
town, whar we went fishin' las' week. Does you 'member
"Yes, I remember the house."
"Well, as dis yer Jeff — dat's de lumber-wagon driver's
name — as dis yer Jeff come up ter dese yer two gentlemen,
one of 'em was sayin, 'I'll bet five dollahs dey ain' narry a
man in dis town would stay in dat ha'nted house all night.'
Dis yer Jeff, he up 'n sez, sezee, ' Scuse me, suh, but ef
you'll 'low me ter speak, suh, I knows a man wat'll stay
in dat ole ha'nted house all night.'"
"What is a ha'nted house, Uncle Peter?" asked Phil.
148 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Wy, Law', chile, a ha'nted house is a house whar
"And what are ha'nts, Uncle Peter?"
"Ha'nts, honey, is sperrits er dead folks, dat comes
back an' hangs roun' whar dey use' ter lib."
"Do all spirits come back, Uncle Peter?"
"No, chile, bress de Lawd, no. Only de bad ones,
w'at has be'n so wicked dey can't rest in dey graves. Folks
lack yo' gran'daddy and yo' gran'mammy — an' all de
Frenches—- dey don' none er dem come back, fer dey wuz
all good people an' is all gone ter hebben. But I'm fer-
gittin' de tale.
"'Well, hoo's de man — hoo's de man?' ax Mistah
Sellers, w'en Jeff toF 'im dey wuz somebody wat 'ud stay
in de ole ha'nted house all night.
"'I'm de man,' sez Jeff. 'I ain't skeered er no ha'nt
dat evuh walked, an' I sleeps in graveya'ds by pref'ence;
fac', I jes nach'ly lacks ter talk ter ha'nts. You pay me
de five dollahs, an' I'll 'gree ter stay in de ole house f'm
nine er clock 'tel daybreak.'
"Dey talk' ter Jeff a w'ile, an' dey made a bahgin wid
'im; dey give 'im one dollah down, an' promus' 'im fo' mo'
in de mawnin' ef he stayed 'tel den.
"So w'en he got de dollah he went uptown an' spent it,
an' 'long 'bout nine er clock he tuk a lamp, an' went down
ter de ole house, an' went inside an' shet de do'.
" Dey wuz a rickety ole table settin' in de middle er de
flo\ He sot de lamp on de table. Den he look 'roun' de
room, in all de cawners an' up de chimbly, ter see dat dey
wan't nobody ner nuthin' hid in de room. Den he tried
all de winders an' fastened de do', so dey couldn' nobody
ner nuthin' git in. Den he fotch a' ole rickety chair f'm
one cawner, and set it by de table, and sot down. He
wuz settin' dere, noddin' his head, studyin' 'bout dem
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 149
other fo' dollahs, an' w'at he wuz gwine buy wid 'em,
w'en bimeby he kinder dozed off, an' befo' he knowed it
he wuz settin' dere fast asleep."
"W'en he woke up, 'long 'bout 'leven erclock, de lamp
had bu'n' down kinder low. He heared a little noise
behind him an' look 'roun', an' dere settin' in de middle
• er de flo' wuz a big black tomcat, wid his tail quirled up
over his back, lookin' up at Jeff wid bofe his two big yaller
" Jeff rub' 'is eyes, ter see ef he wuz 'wake, an w'iles he
sot dere wond'rin' whar de hole wuz dat dat ole cat come
in at, fus' thing he knowed, de ole cat wuz settin' right
up 'side of 'im, on de table, wid his tail quirled up roun'
de lamp chimbly.
"Jeff look' at de black cat, an' de black cat look' at
Jeff. Den de black cat open his mouf an' showed 'is teef,
an' sezee "
" ' Good evenin' suh, ' 'spon' Jeff, trimblin' in de knees,
an' kind'er edgin' 'way fum de table.
" ' Dey ain' nobody hyuh but you an' me, is dey ? ' sez
de black cat, winkin' one eye.
"'No, suh,' sez Jeff, as he made fer de do'; 'an' quick
ez I kin git out er hyuh, dey ain' gwine ter be nobody hyuh
"Is that all, Uncle Peter?" asked Phil, when the old
man came to a halt with a prolonged chuckle.
"Is that all?"
"No, dey's mo' er de tale, but dat's ernuff ter prove
dat black cats kin do mo' dan little w'ite boys 'low dey
"Did Jeff go away?"
"Did he go 'way! Why, chile, he jes' flew away! Befo'
150 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
he got ter de do', howsomevuh, he 'membered he had locked
it, so he didn' stop ter try ter open it, but went straight
out'n a winder, quicker'n lightnin', an' kyared de sash 'long
wid 'im. An' he'd be'n in sech pow'ful has'e dat he knock'
de lamp over an' lack ter sot de house afire. He nevuh
got de yuther fo' dollahs of co'se, 'ca'se he didn't stay in de
ole ha'nted house all night, but he 'lowed he'd sho'ly
'arned de one dollah he'd had a'ready."
"Why didn't he want to talk to the black cat, Uncle
" Why didn' he wan* ter talk ter de black cat ? Whoever
heared er sich a queshtun! He didn' wan' ter talk wid no
black cat, 'ca'se he wuz skeered. Black cats brings 'nuff
bad luck w'en dey doan' talk, let 'lone w'en dey does."
"I should like," said Phil, reflectively, "to talk to a black
cat. I think it would be great fun."
"Keep away f'm 'em, chile, keep away f'm 'em. Dey
is some things too deep fer little boys ter projec' wid, an'
black cats is one of 'em."
They moved down the stream and were soon having
" Uncle Peter," said Phil, while they were on their way
home, "there couldn't be any ha'nts at all in the grave-
yard where my grandfather is buried, could there ? Gra-
ciella read a lot of the tombstones to me one day, and they
all said that all the people were good, and were resting
in peace, and had gone to heaven. Tombstones always
tell the truth, don't they, Uncle Peter ?"
" Happen so, honey, happen so ! De French tombstones
does ; an' as ter de res', I ain' gwine to 'spute 'em, nohow,
fer ef I did, de folks under 'em mought come back an*
ha'nt me, jes' fer spite."
By considerable effort, and a moderate outlay, the col-
onel at length secured a majority of interest in the Eureka
mill site and made application to the State, through Cax-
ton, for the redemption of the title. The opposition had
either ceased or had proved ineffective. There would be
some little further delay, but the outcome seemed practi-
cally certain, and the colonel did not wait longer to set in
motion his plans for the benefit of Clarendon.
"I'm told that Fetters says he'll get the mill anyway,"
said Caxton, "and make more money buying it under fore-
closure than by building a new one. He's ready to lend
on it now."
"Oh, damn Fetters!" exclaimed the colonel, elated
with his victory. He had never been a profane man, but
strong language came so easy in Clarendon that one
dropped into it unconsciously. "The mill will be run-
ning on full time when Fetters has been put out of business.
We've won our first fight, and I've never really seen the
As soon as the title was reasonably secure, the colonel
began his preparations for building the cotton mill. The
first step was to send for a New England architect who
made a specialty of mills, to come down and look the site
over, and make plans for the dam, the mill buildings and
a number of model cottages for the operatives. As soon as
the estimates were prepared, he looked the ground over
to see how far he could draw upon local resources for
152 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
There was good brick clay on the outskirts of the town,
where bricks had once been made; but for most of the
period since the war such as were used in the town had
been procured from the ruins of old buildings — it was
cheaper to clean bricks than to make them. Since the
construction of the railroad branch to Clarendon the few
that were needed from time to time were brought in by
train. Not since the building of the Opera House block
had there been a kiln of brick made in the town. Inquiry
brought out the fact that in case of a demand for bricks
there were brickmakers thereabouts; and in accordance
with his general plan to employ local labour, the colonel
looked up the owner of the brickyard, and asked if he were
prepared to take a large contract.
The gentleman was palpably troubled by the question.
"Well, colonel," he said, "I don't know. I'd s'posed
you were goin' to impo't yo' bricks from Philadelphia."
"No, Mr. Barnes," returned the colonel, "I want to
spend the money here in Clarendon. There seems to be
plenty of unemployed labour."
"Yes, there does, till you want somethin' done; then
there ain't so much. I s'pose I might find half a dozen
niggers round here that know how to make brick; and
there's several more that have moved away that I can get
back if I send for them. If you r'al'y think you want yo'r
brick made here, I'll try to get them out for you. They'll
cost you, though, as much, if not more than, you'd have
to pay for machine-made bricks from the No'th."
The colonel declared that he preferred the local product.
"Well, I'm shore I don't see why," said the brickmaker.
"They'll not be as smooth or as uniform in colour."
"They'll be Clarendon brick," returned the colonel,
"and I want this to be a Clarendon enterprise, from the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 153
"Well," said Barnes resignedly, "if you must have
home-made brick, I suppose I'll have to make 'em.
I'll see what I can do."
Colonel French then turned the brick matter over to
Caxton, who, in the course of a week, worried Barnes
into a contract to supply so many thousand brick within a
"I don't like that there time limit," said the brick-
maker, "but I reckon I can make them brick as fast as
you can get anybody roun' here to lay 'em."
When in the course of another week the colonel saw
signs of activity about the old brickyard, he proceeded with
the next step, which was to have the ruins of the old factory
"Well, colonel," said Major McLean one day when the
colonel dropped into the hotel, where the Major hung out
a good part of the time, "I s'pose you're goin' to hire white
folks to do the work over there."
"Why," replied the colonel, "I hadn't thought about the
colour of the workmen. There'll be plenty, I guess, for
all who apply, so long as it lasts."
"You'll have trouble if you hire niggers," said the
major. "You'll find that they won't work when you
want 'em to. They're not reliable, they have no sense
of responsibility. As soon as they get a dollar they'll
lay off to spend it, and leave yo' work at the mos'
"Well, now, major," replied the colonel, "I haven't
noticed any unnatural activity among the white men of
the town. The Negroes have to live, or seem to think
they have, and I'll give 'em a chance to turn an honest
penny. By the way, major, I need a superintendent to
look after the work. It don't require an expert, but merely
a good man — gentleman preferred — whom I can trust to
154 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
see that my ideas are carried out. Perhaps you can recom-
mend such a person?"
The major turned the matter over in his mind before
answering. He might, of course, offer his own services.
The pay would doubtless be good. But he had not done
any real work for years. His wife owned their home.
His daughter taught in the academy. He was drawn on
jury nearly every term; was tax assessor now and then,
and a judge or clerk of elections upon occasion. Nor did
he think that steady employment would agree with his
health, while it would certainly interfere with his pleasant
visits with the drummers at the hotel.
"I'd be glad to take the position myself, colonel," he
said, "but I r'aly won't have the time. The campaign
will be hummin' in a month or so, an' my political duties
will occupy all my leisure. But I'll bear the matter in
mind, an' see if I can think of any suitable person."
The colonel thanked him. He had hardly expected
the major to offer his services, but had merely wished, for
the fun of the thing, to try the experiment. What the
colonel really needed was a good foreman — he had used
the word "superintendent" merely on the major's account,
as less suggestive of work. He found a poor white man,
however, Green by name, who seemed capable and ener-
getic, and a gang of labourers under his charge was soon
busily engaged in clearing the mill site and preparing for the
foundations of a new dam. When it was learned that the
colonel was paying his labourers a dollar and a half a day,
there was considerable criticism, on the ground that such
lavishness would demoralise the labour market, the usual
daily wage of the Negro labourer being from fifty to seventy-
five cents . But since most of the colonel's money soon found
its way, through the channels of trade, into the pockets of
the white people, the criticism soon died a natural death.
Once started in his career of active benevolence, the
colonel's natural love of thoroughness, combined with a
philanthropic zeal as pleasant as it was novel, sought out
new reforms. They were easily found. He had begun,
with wise foresight, at the foundations of prosperity, by
planning an industry in which the people could find
employment. But there were subtler needs, mental and
spiritual, to be met. Education, for instance, so impor-
tant to real development, languished in Clarendon. There
was a select private school for young ladies, attended by
the daughters of those who could not send their children
away to school. A few of the town boys went away to
military schools. Tho remainder of the white youth
attended the academy, which was a thoroughly democratic
institution, deriving its support partly from the public
school fund and partly from private subscriptions. There
was a coloured public school taught by a Negro teacher.
Ne : ther school had, so far as the colonel could learn,
attained any very high degree of efficiency. At one time
the colonel had contemplated building a schoolhouse for
the children of the mill hands, but upon second thought
decided that the expenditure would be more widely useful
if made through the channels already established. If the
old academy building were repaired, and a wing con-
structed, for which there was ample room upon the
grounds, it would furnish any needed additional accom-
modation for the children of the operatives, and avoid the
drawing of any line that might seem to put these in a class
156 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
apart. There were already lines enough in the town —
the deep and distinct colour line, theoretically all-pervasive,
but with occasional curious exceptions ; the old line between
the "rich white folks" or aristocrats — no longer rich, most
of them, but retaining some of their former wealth and
clinging tenaciously to a waning prestige — and the "poor
whites," still at a social disadvantage, but gradually
evolving a solid middle class, with reinforcements from
the decaying aristocracy, and producing now and then
some ambitious and successful man like Fetters. To
emphasise these distinctions was no part of the colonel's
plan. To eradicate them entirely in any stated time was
of course impossible, human nature being what it was, but
he would do nothing to accentuate them. His mill
hands should become, like the mill hands in New England
towns, an intelligent, self-respecting and therefore respected
element of an enlightened population; and the whole
town should share equally in anything he might spend for
He found much pleasure in talking over these fine plans
of his with Laura Treadwell. Caxton had entered into
them with the enthusiasm of an impressionable young man,
brought into close contact with a forceful personality.
But in Miss Laura the colonel found a sympathy that was
more than intellectual — that reached down to sources of
spiritual strength and inspiration which the colonel could
not touch but of which he was conscious and of which he
did not hesitate to avail himself at second hand. Little
Phil had made the house almost a second home; and the
frequent visits of his father had only strengthened the
colonel's admiration of Laura's character. He had
learned, not from the lady herself, how active in good
works she was. A Lady Bountiful in any large sense she
could not be, for her means, as she had so frankly said
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 157
upon his first visit, were small. But a little went a long
way among the poor of Clarendon, and the life after all is
more than meat, and the body more than raiment, and
advice and sympathy were as often needed as other kinds
of help. He had offered to assist her charities in a sub-
stantial way, and she had permitted it now and then, but
had felt obliged at last to cease mentioning them altogether.
He was able to circumvent this delicacy now and then
through the agency of Graciella, whose theory was that
money was made to spend.
"Laura," he said one evening when at the house, "will
you go with me to-morrow to visit the academy ? I wish
to see with your eyes as well as with mine what it needs
and what can be done with it. It shall be our secret until
we are ready to surprise the town."
They went next morning, without notice to the principal.
The school was well ordered, but the equipment poor.
The building was old and sadly in need of repair. The
teacher was an ex-Confederate officer, past middle life,
well taught by the methods in vogue fifty years before, but
scarcely in harmony with modern ideals of education. In
spite of his perfect manners and unimpeachable charac-
ter, the Professor, as he was called, was generally under-
stood to hold his position more by virtue of his need and
his influence than of his fitness to instruct. He had
several young lady assistants who found in teaching the
only career open, in Clarendon, to white women of good
The recess hour arrived while they were still at school.
When the pupils marched out, in orderly array, the colonel,
seizing a moment when Miss Treadwell and the professor
were speaking about some of the children whom the
colonel did not know, went to the rear of one of the school-
rooms and found, without much difficulty, high up on one
158 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
of the Walls, the faint but still distinguishable outline of a
pencil caricature he had made there thirty years before.
If the wall had been whitewashed in the meantime, the
lime had scaled down to the original plaster. Only the
name, which had been written underneath, was illegible,
though he could reconstruct with his mind's eye and the
aid of a few shadowy strokes — "Bill Fetters, Sneak" — in
angular letters in the printed form.
The colonel smiled at this survival of youthful bigotry.
Yet even then his instinct had been a healthy one; his
boyish characterisation of Fetters, schoolboy, was not an
inapt description of Fetters, man — mortgage shark, labour
contractor and political boss. Bill, seeking official favour,
had reported to the Professor of that date some boyish
escapade in which his schoolfellows had taken part, and it
was in revenge for this meanness that the colonel had
chased him ignominiously down Main Street and pilloried
him upon the schoolhouse wall. Fetters the man, a
Goliath whom no David had yet opposed, had fastened
himself upon a week and disorganised community, during
a period of great distress and had succeeded by devious
ways in making himself its master. And as the colonel
stood looking at the picture he was conscious of a faint
echo of his boyish indignation and sense of outraged
honour. Already Fetters and he had clashed upon the
subject of the cotton mill, and Fetters had retired from
the field. If it were written that they should meet in a
life-and-death struggle for the soul of Clarendon, he would
not shirk the conflict.
"Laura," he said, when they went away, "I should
like to visit the coloured school. Will you come with
She hesitated, and he could see with half an eye that her
answer was dictated by a fine courage.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 159
"Why, certainly, I will go. Why not? It is a place
where a good work is carried on."
"No, Laura," said the colonel smiling, "you need not
go. On second thought, I should prefer to go alone."
She insisted, but he was firm. He had no desire to go
counter to her instincts, or induce her to do anything that
might provoke adverse comment. Miss Laura had all
the fine glow of courage, but was secretly relieved at being
excused from a trip so unconventional.
So the colonel found his way alone to the schoolhouse,
an unpainted frame structure in a barren, sandy lot upon
a street somewhat removed from the centre of the town
and given over mainly to the humble homes of Negroes.
That his unannounced appearance created some embar-
rassment was quite evident, but his friendliness toward
the Negroes had already been noised abroad, and he was
welcomed with warmth, not to say effusion, by the prin-
cipal of the school, a tall, stalwart and dark man with an
intelligent expression, a deferential manner, and shrewd
but guarded eyes — the eyes of the jungle, the colonel had
heard them called; and the thought came to him, was it
some ancestral jungle on the distant coast of savage Africa,
or the wilderness of another sort in which the black people
had wandered and were wandering still in free America?
The attendance was not large; at a glance the colonel saw
that there were but twenty-five pupils present.
"What is your total enrolment?" he asked the teacher.
"Well, sir," was the reply, "we have seventy-five or
eighty on the roll, but it threatened rain this morning, and
as a great many of them haven't got good shoes, they
stayed at home for fear of getting their feet wet."
The colonel had often noticed the black children pad-
dling around barefoot in the puddles on rainy days, but
there was evidently some point of etiquette connected with
160 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
attending school barefoot. He had passed more than
twenty-five children on the streets, on his way to the school-
The building was even worse than that of the academy,
and the equipment poorer still. Upon the colonel ask-
ing to hear a recitation, the teacher made some excuse
and shrewdly requested him to make a few remarks.
They could recite, he said, at any time, but an oppor-
tunity to hear Colonel French was a privilege not to be
The colonel, consenting good-humouredly, was intro-
duced to the school in very flowery language. The pupils
were sitting, the teacher informed them, in the shadow of
a great man. A distinguished member of the grand old
aristocracy of their grand old native State had gone to the
great North and grown rich and famous. He had returned
to his old home to scatter his vast wealth where it was most
needed, and to give his fellow townsmen an opportunity
to add their applause to his world-wide fame. He was
present to express his sympathy with their feeble efforts to
rise in the world, and he wanted the scholars all to listen
with the most respectful attention.
Colonel French made a few simple remarks in which he
spoke of the advantages of education as a means of forming
character and of fitting boys and girls for the work of men
and women. In former years his people had been charged
with direct responsibility for the care of many coloured
children, and in a larger and indirect way they were still
responsible for their descendants. He urged them to
make the best of their opportunities and try to fit them-
selves for useful citizenship. They would meet with the
difficulties that all men must, and with some peculiarly
their own. But they must look up and not down, forward
and not back, seeking always incentives to hope rather
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 161
than excuses for failure. Before leaving, he arranged
with the teacher, whose name was Taylor, to meet several
of the leading coloured men, with whom he wished to dis-
cuss some method of improving their school and directing
their education to more definite ends. The meeting was
"What your people need," said the colonel to the little
gathering at the schoolhouse one evening, "is to learn
not only how to read and write and think, but to do these
things to some definite end. We live in an age of special-
ists. To make yourselves valuable members of society,
you must learn to do well some particular thing, by which
you may reasonably expect to earn a comfortable living
in your own home, among your neighbours, and save
something for old age and the education of your children.
Get together. Take advice from some of your own
capable leaders in other places. Find out what you can
do for yourselves, and I will give you three dollars for
every one you can gather, for an industrial school or some
similar institution. Take your time, and when you're
ready to report, come and see me, or write to me, if I am
The result was the setting in motion of a stagnant pool.
Who can measure the force of hope ? The town had been
neglected by mission boards. No able or ambitious Negro
had risen from its midst to found an institution and find
a career. The coloured school received a grudging dole
from the public funds, and was left entirely to the super-
vision of the coloured people. It would have been sur-
prising had the money always been expended to the best
The fact that a white man, in some sense a local man,
who had yet come from the far North, the land of plenty,
with feelings friendly to their advancement, had taken a
162 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
personal interest in their welfare and proved it by his
presence among them, gave them hope and inspiration
for the future. They had long been familiar with the
friendship that curbed, restricted and restrained, and
concerned itself mainly with their limitations. They were
almost hysterically eager to welcome the co-operation of
a friend who, in seeking to lift them up, was obsessed by
no fear of pulling himself down or of narrowing in some
degree the gulf that separated them — who was willing not
only to help them, but to help them to a condition in
which they might be in less need of help. The colonel
touched the reserves of loyalty in the Negro nature, exem-
plified in old Peter and such as he. Who knows, had
these reserves been reached sooner by strict justice and
patient kindness, that they might not long since have
helped to heal the wounds of slavery ?
"And now, Laura," said the colonel, "when we have
improved the schools and educated the people, we must
give them something to occupy their minds. We must
have a library, a public library."
"That will be splendid!" she replied with enthusiasm.
"A public library," continued the colonel, "housed in a
beautiful building, in a conspicuous place, and decorated
in an artistic manner — a shrine of intellect and taste, at
which all the people, rich and poor, black and white, may
Miss Laura was silent for a moment, and thoughtful.
"But, Henry," she said with some hesitation, "do you
mean that coloured people should use the library ? "
"Why not?" he asked. "Do they not need it most?
Perhaps not many of them might wish to use it; but to
those who do, should we deny the opportunity? Con-
sider their teachers — if the blind lead the blind, shall they
not both fall into the ditch?"
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 163
" Yes, Henry, that is the truth ; but I am afraid the white
people wouldn't wish to handle the same books."
"Very well, then we will give the coloured folks a
library of their own, at some place convenient for their
use. We need not strain our ideal by going too fast.
Where shall I build the library?"
"The vacant lot," she said, "between the post-office
and the bank."
"The very place," he replied. "It belonged to our
family once, and I shall be acquiring some more ancestral
property. The cows will need to find a new pasture."
The announcement of the colonel's plan concerning the
academy and the library evoked a hearty response on the
part of the public, and the Anglo-Saxon hailed it as the
dawning of a new era. With regard to the colonel's
friendly plans for the Negroes, there was less enthusiasm
and some difference of opinion. Some commended the
colonel's course. There were others, good men and
patriotic, men who would have died for liberty, in the
abstract, men who sought to walk uprightly, and to live
peaceably with all, but who, by much brooding over the
conditions surrounding their life, had grown hopelessly
pessimistic concerning the Negro.
The subject came up in a little company of gentlemen
who were gathered around the colonel's table one evening,
after the coffee had been served, and the Havanas passed
"Your zeal for humanity does you infinite credit, Colonel
French," said Dr. Mackenzie, minister of the Presbyterian
Church, who was one of these prophetic souls, "but I fear
your time and money and effort will be wasted. The
Negroes are hopelessly degraded. They have degenerated
rapidly since the war."
" How do you know, doctor ? You came here from the
164 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
North long after the war. What is your standard of com-
parison ? "
"I voice the unanimous opinion of those who have
known them at both periods."
"J don't agree with you; and I lived here before the
war. There is certainly one smart Negro in town. Nichols,
the coloured barber, owns five houses, and overreached
me in a bargain. Before the war he was a chattel. And
Taylor, the teacher, seems to be a very sensible fellow."
"Yes," said Dr. Price, who was one of the company,
"Taylor is a very intelligent Negro. Nichols and he
have learned how to live and prosper among the white
"They are exceptions," said the preacher, "who only
prove the rule. No, Colonel French, for a long time I
hoped that there was a future for these poor, helpless
blades. But of late I have become profoundly convinced
that there is no place in this nation for the Negro, except
under the sod. We will not assimilate him, we cannot
deport him "
"And therefore, O man of God, must we exterminate
"It is God's will. We need not stain our hands with
innocent blood. If we but sit passive, and leave their fate
to time, they will die away in discouragement and despair.
Already disease is sapping their vitals. Like other weak
races, they will vanish from the pathway of the strong,
and there is no place for them to flee. When they go
hence, it is to go forever. It is the law of life, which God
has given to the earth. To coddle them, to delude them
with false hopes of an unnatural equality which not all the
power of the Government has been able to maintain, is only
to increase their unhappinesss. To a doomed race, ignor-
ance is euthanasia, and knowledge is but pain and sorrow.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 165
It is His will that the fittest should survive, and that those
shall inherit the earth who are best prepared to utilise its
forces and gather its fruits."
" My dear doctor, what you say may all be true, but, with
all due respect, I don't believe a word of it. I am rather
inclined to think that these people have a future; that there
is a place for them here; that they have made fair progress
under discouraging circumstances; that they will not
disappear from our midst for many generations, if ever;
and that in the meantime, as we make or mar them, we
shall make or mar our civilisation. No society can be
greater or wiser or better than the average of all its ele-
ments. Our ancestors brought these people here, and
lived in luxury, some of them — or went into bankruptcy,
more of them — on their labour. After three hundred
years of toil they might be fairly said to have earned their
liberty. At any rate, they are here. They constitute
the bulk of our labouring class. To teach them is to make
their labour more effective and therefore more profitable;
to increase their needs is to increase our profits in supplying
them. I'll take my chances on the Golden Rule. I am
no lover of the Negro, as Negro — I do not know but I
should rather see him elsewhere. I think our land would
have been far happier had none but white men ever set
foot upon it after the red men were driven back. But
they are here, through no fault of theirs, as we are. They
were born here. We have given them our language —
which they speak more or less corruptly; our religion —
which they practise certainly no better than we; and our
blood — which our laws make a badge of disgrace. Per-
haps we could not do them strict justice, without a great
sacrifice upon our own part. But they are men, and they
should have their chance — at least some chance."
"I shall pray for your success," sighed the preacher.
166 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"With God all things are possible, if He will them. But I
can only anticipate your failure."
"The colonel is growing so popular, with his ready
money and his cheerful optimism," said old General
Thornton, another of the guests, "that we'll have to run
him for Congress, as soon as he is reconverted to the faith
of his fathers."
Colonel French had more than once smiled at the
assumption that a mere change of residence would alter
his matured political convictions. His friends seemed
to look upon them, so far as they differed from their own,
as a mere veneer, which would scale off in time, as had
the multiplied coats of whitewash over the pencil drawing
made on the school-house wall in his callow youth.
"You see," the old general went on, " it's a social matter
down here, rather than a political one. With this ignorant
black flood sweeping up against us, the race question
assumes an importance which overshadows the tariff and
the currency and everything else. For instance, I had
fully made up my mind to vote the other ticket in the last
election. I didn't like our candidate nor our platform.
There was a clean-cut issue between sound money and
financial repudiation, and I was tired of the domination of
populists and demagogues. All my better instincts led
me toward a change of attitude, and I boldly proclaimed
the fact. I declared my political and intellectual inde-
pendence, at the cost of many friends; even my own
son-in-law scarcely spoke to me for a month. When I
went to the polls, old Sam Brown, the triflingest nigger
in town, whom I had seen sentenced to jail more than once
for stealing — old Sam Brown was next to me in the line.
"'Well, Gin'l/ he said, 'I'm glad you is got on de right
side at las', an' is gwine to vote our ticket.'"
"This was too much! I could stand the other party in
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 167
the abstract, but not in the concrete. I voted the ticket
of my neighbours and my friends. We had to preserve
our institutions, if our finances went to smash. Call it
prejudice — call it what you like — it's human nature, and
you'll come to it, colonel, you'll come to it — and then we'll
send you to Congress."
" I might not care to go," returned the colonel, smiling.
"You could not resist, sir, the unanimous demand of a
determined constituency. Upon the rare occasions when,
in this State, the office has had a chance to seek the man,
it has never sought in vain."
Time slipped rapidly by, and the colonel had been in
Clarendon a couple of months when he went home one
afternoon, and not finding Phil and Peter, went around
to the Treadwells' as the most likely place to seek them.
"Henry," said Miss Laura, "Philip does not seem quite
well to-day. There are dark circles under his eyes, and
he has been coughing a little."
The colonel was startled. Had his growing absorption
in other things led him to neglect his child ? Phil needed
a mother. This dear, thoughtful woman, whom nature
had made for motherhood, had seen things about his
child, that he, the child's father, had not perceived. To
a mind like Colonel French's, this juxtaposition of a
motherly heart and a motherless child seemed very pleas-
He despatched a messenger on horseback immediately
for Dr. Price. The colonel had made the doctor's ac-
quaintance soon after coming to Clarendon, and out of
abundant precaution, had engaged him o call once a week
to see Phil. A physician of skill and experience, a gentle-
man by birth and breeding, a thoughtful student of men
and manners, and a good story teller, he had proved
excellent company and the colonel soon numbered
him among his intimate friends. He had seen Phil a
few days before, but it was yet several days before his
Dr. Price owned a place in the country, several miles
away, on the road to Mink Run, and thither the messenger
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 169
went to find him. He was in his town office only at stated
hours. The colonel was waiting at home, an hour later,
when the doctor drove up to the gate with Ben Dudley, in
the shabby old buggy to which Ben sometimes drove his
one good horse on his trips to town.
"I broke one of my buggy wheels going out home this
morning," explained the doctor, " and had just sent it to
the shop when your messenger came. I would have
ridden your horse back, and let the man walk in, but
Mr. Dudley fortunately came along and gave me a lift."
He looked at Phil, left some tablets, with directions for
their use, and said that it was nothing serious and the
child would be all right in a day or two.
"What he needs, colonel, at his age, is a woman's care.
But for that matter none of us ever get too old to need
"I'll have Tom hitch up and take you home," said the
colonel, when the doctor had finished with Phil, "unless
you'll stay to dinner."
"No, thank you," said the doctor, "I'm much obliged,
but I told my wife I'd be back to dinner. I'll just sit
here and wait for young Dudley, who's going to call
for me in an hour. There's a fine mind, colonel,
that's never had a proper opportunity for development.
If he'd had half the chance that your boy will, he would
make his mark. Did you ever see his uncle Malcolm ? "
The colonel described his visit to Mink Run, the scene
on the piazza, the interview with Mr. Dudley, and Peter's
story about the hidden treasure.
" Is the old man sane ? " he asked.
"His mind is warped, undoubtedly," said the doctor,
"but I'll leave it to you whether it was the result of an
insane delusion or not— if you care to hear his story — or
perhaps you've heard it ?"
170 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"No, I have not," returned the colonel, "but I should
like to hear it.
This was the story that the doctor told :
When the last century had passed the half-way mark,
and had started upon its decline, the Dudleys had
already owned land on Mink Run for a hundred years or
more, and were one of the richest and most conspicuous
families in the State. The first great man of the family,
General Arthur Dudley, an ardent patriot, had won dis-
tinction in the War of Independence, and held high place
in the councils of the infant nation. His son became a dis-
tinguished jurist, whose name is still a synonym for legal
learning and juridical wisdom. In Ralph Dudley, the
son of Judge Dudley, and the immediate predecessor of
the demented old man in whom now rested the title to the
remnant of the estate, the family began *o decline from
its eminence. Ralph did not marry, but led a life of ease
and pleasure, wasting what his friends thought rare gifts,
and leaving his property to the management of his nephew
Malcolm, the orphan son of a younger brother and
his uncle's prospective heir. Malcolm Dudley proved
so capable a manager that for year after year the large
estate was left almost entirely in his charge, the owner
looking to it merely for revenue to lead his own life in
The Civil War gave Ralph Dudley a career, not upon
the field, for which he had no taste, but in administrative
work, which suited his talents, and imposed more arduous
tasks than those of actual warfare. Valour was of small
account without arms and ammunition. A commis-
sariat might be improvised, but gunpowder must be manu-
factured or purchased.
Ralph's nephew Malcolm kept bachelor's hall in the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 171
great house. The only women in the household were an
old black cook, and the housekeeper, known as "Viney"
— a Negro corruption of Lavinia — a tall, comely young
light mulattress, with a dash of Cherokee blood, which
gave her straighter, blacker and more glossy hair than
most women of mixed race have, and perhaps a somewhat
different temperamental endowment. Her duties were not
onerous; compared with the toiling field hands she led
an easy life. The household had been thus constituted
for ten years and more, when Malcolm Dudley began
paying court to a wealthy widow.
This lady, a Mrs. Todd, was a war widow, who had lost
her husband in the early years of the struggle. War,
while it took many lives, did not stop the currents of life,
and weeping widows sometimes found consolation. Mrs.
Todd was of Clarendon extraction, and had returned to
the town to pass the period of her mourning. Men were
scarce in those days, and Mrs. Todd was no longer young,
Malcolm Dudley courted her, proposed marriage, and was
He broke the news to his housekeeper by telling her to
prepare the house for a mistress. It was not a pleasant'
task, but he was a resolute man. The woman had been
in power too long to yield gracefully. Some passionate
strain of the mixed blood in her veins broke out in a scene
of hysterical violence. Her pleadings, remonstrances,
rages, were all in vain. Mrs. Todd was rich, and he was
poor; should his uncle see fit to marry — always a possi-
bility — he would have nothing. He would carry out his
The day after this announcement Viney went to town,
sought out the object of Dudley's attentions, and told her
something; just what, no one but herself and the lady
ever knew. When Dudley called in the evening, the widow
172 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
refused to see him, and sent instead, a curt note cancelling
Dudley went home puzzled and angry. On the way
thither a suspicion flashed into his mind. In the morning
he made investigations, after which he rode round by the
residence of his overseer. Returning to the house at noon,
he ate his dinner in an ominous silence, which struck
terror to the heart of the woman who waited on him and
had already repented of her temerity. When she would
have addressed him, with a look he froze the words
upon her lips. When he had eaten he looked at his
watch, and ordered a boy to bring his horse round to
the door. He waited until he saw his overseer coming
toward the house, then sprang into the saddle and rode
down the lane, passing the overseer with a nod.
Ten minutes later Dudley galloped back up the lane and
sprang from his panting horse. As he dashed up the steps
he met the overseer coming out of the house.
"You have not "
"I have, sir, and well! The she-devil bit my hand to
the bone, and would have stabbed me if I hadn't got the
knife away from her. You'd better have the niggers look
after her; she's shamming a fit."
Dudley was remorseful, and finding Viney unconscious,
sent hastily for a doctor.
"The woman has had a stroke," said that gentleman
curtly, after an examination, "brought on by brutal treat-
ment. By G-d, Dudley, I wouldn't have thought this of
you ! I own Negroes, but I treat them like human beings.
And such a woman! I'm ashamed of my own race, I
swear I am! If we are whipped in this war and the
slaves are freed, as Lincoln threatens, it will be God's
Many a man has been shot by Southern gentlemen for
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 173
language less offensive; but Dudley's conscience made
him meek as Moses.
"It was a mistake," he faltered, "and I shall discharge
the overseer who did it."
"You had better shoot him," returned the doctor. "He
has no soul — and what is worse, no discrimination."
Dudley gave orders that Viney should receive the best
of care. Next day he found, behind the clock, where she
had laid it, the letter which Ben Dudley, many years after,
had read to Graciella on Mrs. Treadwell's piazza. It
was dated the morning of the previous day.
An hour later he learned of the death of his uncle, who
had been thrown from a fractious horse, not far from
Mink Run, and had broken his neck in the fall. A hasty
search of the premises did not disclose the concealed
treasure. The secret lay in the mind of the stricken
woman. As soon as Dudley learned that Viney had
eaten and drunk and was apparently conscious, he went
to her bedside and took her limp hand in his own.
" I'm sorry, Viney, mighty sorry, I assure you. Martin
went further than I intended, and I have discharged him
for his brutality. You'll be sorry, Viney, to learn that
your old Master Ralph is dead ; he was killed by an accident
within ten miles of here. His body will be brought home
to-day and buried to-morrow."
Dudley thought he detected in her expressionless face
a shade of sorrow. Old Ralph, high liver and genial
soul, had been so indulgent a master, that his nephew
suffered by the comparison.
"I found the letter he left with you," he continued
softly, " and must take charge of the money immediately.
Can you tell me where it is ? "
One side of Viney's face was perfectly inert, as the
result of her disorder, and any movement of the other
174 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
produced a slight distortion that spoiled the face as the
index of the mind. But her eyes were not dimmed, and
into their sombre depths there leaped a sudden fire — only
a momentary flash, for almost instantly she closed her
lids, and when she opened them a moment later, they
exhibited no trace of emotion.
"You will tell me where it is ?" he repeated. A request
came awkwardly to his lips; he was accustomed to com-
Viney pointed to her mouth with her right hand, which
was not affected.
"To be sure," he said hastily, "you cannot speak — not
He reflected for a moment. The times were unsettled.
Should a wave of conflict sweep over Clarendon, the money
might be found by the enemy. Should Viney take a
turn for the worse and die, it would be impossible to learn
anything from her at all. There was another thought,
which had rapidly taken shape in his mind. No one but
Viney knew that his uncle had been at Mink Run. The
estate had been seriously embarrassed by Roger's extrava-
gant patriotism, following upon the heels of other and
earlier extravagances. The fifty thousand dollars would
in part make good the loss; as his uncle's heir, he had at
least a moral claim upon it, and possession was nine
points of the law.
"Is it in the house ?" he asked.
She made a negative sign.
"In the barn?"
The same answer.
"In the yard? the garden? the spring house? the quar-
No question he could put brought a different answer.
Dudley was puzzled. The woman was in her right mind;
THE COLONELS DHEAM 175
she was no liar — of this servile vice at least she was free.
Surely there was some mystery.
"You saw my uncle ?" he asked thoughtfully.
She nodded affirmatively.
"And he had the money, in gold ?"
"He left it here?"
"Do you know where he hid it?"
She indicated that she did, and pointed again to her
"You mean that you must regain your speech before
you can explain?"
She nodded yes, and then, as if in pain, turned her face
away from him.
Viney was carefully nursed. The doctor came to see
her regularly. She was fed with dainty food, and no
expense was spared to effect her cure. In due time she
recovered from the paralytic stroke, in all except the
power of speech, which did not seem to return. All of
Dudley's attempts to learn from her the whereabouts
of the money were equally futile. She seemed willing
enough, but, though she made the effort, was never able
to articulate; and there was plainly some mystery about
the hidden gold which only words could unravel.
If she could but write, a few strokes of the pen would
give him his heart's desire! But, alas! Viney may as
well have been without hands, for any use she could make
of a pen. Slaves were not taught to read or write, nor
was Viney one of the rare exceptions. But Dudley was
a man of resource— he would have her taught. He
employed a teacher for her, a free coloured man who
knew the rudiments. But Viney, handicapped by her
loss of speech, made wretched progress. From whatever
176 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
cause, she manifested a remarkable stupidity, while
seemingly anxious to learn. Dudley himself took a hand
in her instruction, but with no better results, and, in the
end, the attempt to teach her was abandoned as hopeless.
Years rolled by. The fall of the Confederacy left
the slaves free and completed the ruin of the Dudley
estate. Part of the land went, at ruinous prices, to meet
mortgages at ruinous rates; part lay fallow, given up to
scrub oak and short-leaf pine ; merely enough was culti-
vated, or let out on shares to Negro tenants, to provide a
living for old Malcolm and a few servants. Absorbed
in dreams of the hidden gold and in the search for it, he
neglected his business and fell yet deeper into debt. He
worried himself into a lingering fever, through which
Viney nursed him with every sign of devotion, and from
which he rose with his mind visibly weakened.
When the slaves were freed, Viney had manifested no
desire to leave her old place. After the tragic episode
which had led to their mutual undoing, there had been
no relation between them but that of master and servant.
But some gloomy attraction, or it may have been habit,
held her to the scene of her power and of her fall. She
had no kith nor kin, and her affliction separated her from
the rest of mankind. Nor would Dudley have been willing
to let her go, for in her lay the secret of the treasure;
and, since all other traces of her ailment had disappeared,
so her speech might return. The fruitless search was never
relinquished, and in time absorbed all of Malcolm Dudley's
interest. The crops were left to the servants, who
neglected them. The yard had been dug over many
times. Every foot of ground for rods around had been
sounded with a pointed iron bar. The house had suf-
fered in the search. No crack or cranny had been left
unexplored. The spaces between the walls, beneath
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 177
the floors, under the hearths — every possible hiding place
had been searched, with little care for any resulting
Into this household Ben Dudley, left alone in the world,
had come when a boy of fifteen. He had no special turn
for farming, but such work as was done upon the old
plantation was conducted under his supervision. In
the decaying old house, on the neglected farm, he had
grown up in harmony with his surroundings. The
example of his old uncle, wrecked in mind by a hopeless
quest, had never been brought home to him as a warning;
use had dulled its force. He had never joined in the
search, except casually, but the legend was in his mind.
Unconsciously his standards of life grew around it. Some
day he would be rich, and in order to be sure of it, he must
remain with his uncle, whose heir he was. For the money
was there, without a doubt. His great-uncle had hid the
gold and left the letter — Ben had read it.
The neighbours knew the story, or at least some vague
version of it, and for a time joined in the search — sur-
reptitiously, as occasion offered, and each on his own
account. It was the common understanding that old
Malcolm was mentally unbalanced. The neighbouring
Negroes, with generous imagination, fixed his mythical
and elusive treasure at a million dollars. Not one of
them had the faintest conception of the bulk or purchas-
ing power of one million dollars in gold; but when one
builds a castle in the air, why not make it lofty and spa-
From this unwholesome atmosphere Ben Dudley found
relief, as he grew older, in frequent visits to Clarendon,
which invariably ended at the Tread wells', who were,
indeed, distant relatives. He had one good horse, and
178 THE COLONEL'S DUEAM
in an hour or less could leave behind him the shabby old
house, falling into ruin, the demented old man, digging
in the disordered yard, the dumb old woman watching
him from her inscrutable eyes ; and by a change as abrupt
as that of coming from a dark room into the brightness
of midday, find himself in a lovely garden, beside a beau-
tiful girl, whom he loved devotedly, but who kept him on
the ragged edge of an uncertainty that was stimulating
enough, but very wearing.
The summer following Colonel French's return to
Clarendon was unusually cool, so cool that the colonel,
pleasantly occupied with his various plans and projects,
scarcely found the heat less bearable than that of New
York at the same season. During a brief torrid spell he
took Phil to a Southern mountain resort for a couple of
weeks, and upon another occasion ran up to New York
for a day or two on business in reference to the machinery
for the cotton mill, which was to be ready for installation
some time during the fall. But these were brief interludes,
and did not interrupt the current of his life, which was
flowing very smoothly and pleasantly in its new channel,
if not very swiftly, for even the colonel was not able
to make things move swiftly in Clarendon during the
summer time, and he was well enough pleased to see
them move at all.
Kirby was out of town when the colonel was in New
York, and therefore he did not see him. His mail was
being sent from his club to Denver, where he was pre-
sumably looking into some mining proposition. Mrs.
Jerviss, the colonel supposed, was at the seaside, but he
had almost come face to face with her one day on Broad-
way. She had run down to the city on business of some
sort. Moved by the instinct of defense, the colonel, by
a quick movement, avoided the meeting, and felt safer
when the lady was well out of sight. He did not wish, at
this time, to be diverted from his Southern interests, and
the image of another woman was uppermost in his mind,
180 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
One moonlight evening, a day or two after his return
from this brief Northern trip, the colonel called at Mrs.
Treadwells'. Caroline opened the door. Mrs. Tread-
well, she said, was lying down. Miss Graciella, had gone
over to a neighbour's, but would soon return. Miss
Laura was paying a call, but would not be long. Would
the colonel wait? No, he said, he would take a walk,
and come back later.
The streets were shady, and the moonlight bathed with
a silvery glow that part of the town which the shadows did
not cover. Strolling aimlessly along the quiet, unpaved
streets, the colonel, upon turning a corner, saw a lady
walking a short distance ahead of him. He thought he
recognised the figure, and hurried forward; but ere he
caught up with her, she turned and went into one of a row
of small houses which he knew belonged to Nichols, the
coloured barber, and were occupied by coloured people.
Thinking he had been mistaken in the woman's identity,
he slackened his pace, and ere he had passed out of hearing,
caught the tones of a piano, accompanying the words,
" I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls,
With vassals and serfs at my s-i-i-de."
It was doubtless the barber's daughter. The barber's
was the only coloured family in town that owned a piano.
In the moonlight, and at a distance of some rods, the song
sounded well enough, and the colonel lingered until it
ceased, and the player began to practise scales, when he
continued his walk. He had smoked a couple of cigars,
and was returning toward Mrs. Treadwells', when he
met, face to face, Miss Laura Treadwell coming out of
the barber's house. He lifted his hat and put out his hand.
"I called at the house a while ago, and you were all
out. I was just going back. I'll walk along with you."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 181
Miss Laura was visibly embarrassed at the meeting.
The colonel gave no sign that he noticed her emotion,
but weDt on talking.
" It is a delightful evening," he said.
"Yes," she replied, and then went on, "you must wonder
what I was doing there."
"I suppose," he said, "that you were looking for a.
servant, or on some mission of kindness and good will."
Miss Laura was silent for a moment and he could feel
her hand tremble on the arm he offered her.
"No, Henry," she said, "why should I deceive you?
I did not go to find a servant, but to serve. I have told
you we were poor, but not how poor. I can tell you
what I could not say to others, for you have lived away
from here, and I know how differently from most of us
you look at things. I went to the barber's house to give
the barber's daughter music lessons — for money."
The colonel laughed contagiously.
"You taught her to sing —
'I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls?'"
"Yes, but you must not judge my work too soon," she
replied. "It is not finished yet."
"You shall let me know when it is done," he said,
"and I will walk by and hear the finished product. Your
pupil has improved wonderfully. I heard her singing
the song the day I came back — the first time I walked by
the old house. She sings it much better now. You are
a good teacher, as well as a good woman."
Miss Laura laughed somewhat excitedly, but was bent
upon her explanation.
"The girl used to come to the house," she said. "Her
mother belonged to us before the war, and we have been
such friends as white and black can be. And she wanted
182 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
to learn to play, and offered to pay me well for lessons, and
I gave them to her. We never speak about the money
at the house; mother knows it, but feigns that I do it out
of mere kindness, and tells me that I am spoiling the
coloured people. Our friends are not supposed to know
it, and if any of them do, they are kind and never speak
of it. Since you have been coming to the house, it has
not been convenient to teach her there, and I have been
going to her home in the evening."
"My dear Laura," said the colonel, remorsefully, "I
have driven you away from your own home, and all un-
wittingly. I applaud your enterprise and your public
spirit. It is a long way from the banjo to the piano — it
marks the progress of a family and foreshadows the evolu-
tion of a race. And what higher work than to elevate
They had reached the house. Mrs. Treadwell had not
come down, nor had Graciella returned. They went
into the parlour. Miss Laura turned up the lamp.
Graciella had run over to a neighbour's to meet a young
lady who was visiting a young lady who was a friend of
Graciella's. She had remained a little longer than she
had meant to, for among those who had called to see her
friend's friend was young Mr. Fetters, the son of the
magnate, lately returned home from college. Barclay
Fetters was handsome, well-dressed and well-mannered.
He had started at one college, and had already changed
to two others. Stories of his dissipated habits and reck-
less extravagance had been bruited about. Graciella
knew his family history, and had imbibed the old-
fashioned notions of her grandmother's household, so that
her acknowledgment of the introduction was somewhat
cold, not to say distant. But as she felt the charm of his
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 183
manner, and saw that the other girls were vieing with one
another for his notice, she felt a certain triumph that he
exhibited a marked preference for her conversation. Her
reserve gradually broke down, and she was talking with
animation and listening with pleasure, when she suddenly
recollected that Colonel French would probably call, and
that she ought to be there to entertain him, for which pur-
pose she had dressed herself very carefully. He had not
spoken yet, but might be expected to speak at any time;
such marked attentions as his could have but one meaning;
and for several days she had had a premonition that before
the week was out he would seek to know his fate; and
Graciella meant to be kind.
Anticipating this event, she had politely but pointedly
discouraged Ben Dudley's attentions, until Ben's pride,
of which he had plenty in reserve, had awaked to activity.
At their last meeting he had demanded a definite answer
to his oft-repeated question.
"Graciella," he had said, "are you going to marry me?
Yes or no. I'll not be played with any longer. You
must marry me for myself, or not at all. Yes or no."
"Then no, Mr. Dudley," she had replied with spirit,
and without a moment's hesitation, " I will not marry you.
I will never marry you, not if I should die an old maid."
She was sorry they had not parted friends, but she was
not to blame. After her marriage, she would avoid the
embarrassment of meeting him, by making the colonel
take her away. Sometime she might, through her hus-
band, be of service to Ben, and thus make up, in part at
least, for his disappointment.
As she ran up through the garden and stepped upon the
porch — her slippers were thin and made no sound — she
heard Colonel French's voice in the darkened parlour.
Some unusual intonation struck her, and she moved,
184 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
lightly and almost mechanically forward, in the shadow,
toward a point where she could see through the window
and remain screened from observation. So intense was
her interest in what she heard, that she stood with her
hand on her heart, not even conscious that she was doing
a shameful thing.
Her aunt was seated and Colonel French was standing
near her. An open Bible lay upon the table. The
colonel had taken it up and was reading:
"'Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is
far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely
trust in her. She will do him good and not evil all the
days of her life. Strength and honour are her clothing,
and she shall rejoice in time to come.'
"Laura," he said, "the proverb maker was a prophet
as well. In these words, written four thousand years ago,
he has described you, line for line."
The glow which warmed her cheek, still smooth, the
light which came into her clear eyes, the joy that filled
her heart at these kind words, put the years to flight, and
for the moment Laura was young again.
"You have been good to Phil," the colonel went on,
"and I should like him to be always near you and have
your care. And you have been kind to me, and made me
welcome and at home in what might otherwise have
seemed, after so long an absence, a strange land. You
bring back to me the best of my youth, and in you I find
the inspiration for good deeds. Be my wife, dear Laura,
and a mother to my boy, and we will try to make you
"Oh, Henry," she cried with fluttering heart, "I am
not worthy to be your wife. I know nothing of the world
where you have lived, nor whether I would fit into it."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 185
"You are worthy of any place," he declared, "and
if one please you more than another, I shall make your
"But, Henry, how could I leave my mother? And
Graciella needs my care."
"You need not leave your mother — she shall be mine as
well as yours. Graciella is a dear, bright child; she has
in her the making of a noble woman; she should be sent
away to a good school, and I will see to it. No, dear
Laura, there are no difficulties, no giants in the pathway
that will not fly or fall when we confront them."
He had put his arm around her and lifted her face to
his. He read his answer in her swimming eyes, and
when he had reached down and kissed her cheek, she
buried her head on his shoulder and shed some tears of
happiness. For this was her secret: she was sweet and
good; she would have made any man happy, who had
been worthy of her, but no man had ever before asked
her to be his wife. She had lived upon a plane so simple,
yet so high, that men not equally high-minded had never
ventured to address her, and there were few such men,
and chance had not led them her way. As to the others —
perhaps there were women more beautiful, and certainly
more enterprising. She had not repined; she had been
busy and contented. Now this great happiness was
vouchsafed her, to find in the love of the man whom she
admired above all others a woman's true career.
"Henry," she said, when they had sat down on the old
hair-cloth sofa, side by side, "you have made me very
happy; so happy that I wish to keep my happiness all to
myself — for a little while. Will you let me keep our en-
gagement secret until I — am accustomed to it ? It may be
silly or childish, but it seems like a happy dream, and I wish
to assure myself of its reality before I tell it to anyone else."
186 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"To me," said the colonel, smiling tenderly into her
eyes, "it is the realisation of an ideal. Since we met that
day in the cemetery you have seemed to me the embodi-
ment of all that is best of my memories of the old South;
and your gentleness, your kindness, your tender grace,
your self-sacrifice and devotion to duty, mark you a queen
among women, and my heart shall be your throne. As
to the announcement, have it as you will — it is the lady's
"You are very good," she said tremulously. "This
hour repays me for all I have ever tried to do for others."
Graciella felt very young indeed — somewhere in the
neighbourhood of ten, she put it afterward, when she
reviewed the situation in a calmer frame of mind — as she
crept softly away from the window and around the house
to the back door, and up the stairs and into her own
chamber, where, all oblivious of danger to her clothes or
her complexion, she threw herself down upon her own
bed and burst into a passion of tears. She had been
cruelly humiliated. Colonel French, whom she had
imagined in love with her, had regarded her merely as a
child, who ought to be sent to school — to acquire what,
she asked herself, good sense or deportment? Perhaps
she might acquire more good sense — she had certainly
made a fool of herself in this case — but she had prided
herself upon her manners. Colonel French had been
merely playing with her, like one would with a pet
monkey; and he had been in love, all the time, with her
Aunt Laura, whom the girls had referred to compassion-
ately, only that same evening, as a hopeless old maid.
It is fortunate that youth and hope go generally hand
in hand. Graciella possessed a buoyant spirit to breast
the waves of disappointment. She had her cry out,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 187
a good, long cry; and when much weeping had dulled
the edge of her discomfiture she began to reflect that all
Was not yet lost. The colonel would not marry her, but
he would still marry in the family. When her Aunt
Laura became Mrs. French, she would doubtless go often
to New York, if she would not live there always. She
would invite Graciella to go with her, perhaps to live with
her there. As for going to school, that was a matter
which her own views should control; at present she had
no wish to return to school. She might take lessons in
music, or art; her aunt would hardly care for her to learn
stenography now, or go into magazine work. Her aunt
would surely not go to Europe without inviting her,
and Colonel French was very liberal with his money,
and would deny his wife nothing, though Graciella could
hardly imagine that any man would be infatuated with
her Aunt Laura.
But this was not the end of Graciella's troubles. Gra-
ciella had a heart, although she had suppressed its prompt-
ings, under the influence of a selfish ambition. She had
thrown Ben Dudley over for the colonel; the colonel did
not want her, and now she would have neither. Ben
had been very angry, unreasonably angry, she had thought
at the time, and objectionably rude in his manner. He
had sworn never to speak to her again. If he should
keep his word, she might be very unhappy. These re-
flections brought on another rush of tears, and a very
penitent, contrite, humble-minded young woman cried
herself to sleep before Miss Laura, with a heart bursting
with happiness, bade the colonel good-night at the gate,
and went upstairs to lie awake in her bed in a turmoil
of pleasant emotions.
Miss Laura's happiness lay not alone in the prospect
that Colonel French would marry her, nor in any sordid
188 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
thought of what she would gain by becoming the wife of a
rich man. It rested in the fact that this man, whom she
admired, and who had come back from the outer world
to bring fresh ideas, new and larger ideals to lift and
broaden and revivify the town, had passed by youth and
beauty and vivacity, and had chosen her to share this
task, to form the heart and mind and manners of his
child, and to be the tie which would bind him most strongly
to her dear South. For she was a true child of the soil;
the people about her, white and black, were her people,
and this marriage, with its larger opportunities for useful-
ness, would help her to do that for which hitherto she had
only been able to pray and to hope. To the boy she would
be a mother indeed; to lead him in the paths of truth and
loyalty and manliness and the fear of God — it was a
priceless privilege, and already her mother-heart yearned
to begin the task.
And then after the flow came the ebb. Why had he
chosen her? Was it merely as an abstraction — the
embodiment of an ideal, a survival from a host of pleasant
memories, and as a mother for his child, who needed
care which no one else could give, and as a helpmate in
carrying out his schemes of benevolence? Were these
his only motives; and, if so, were they sufficient to ensure
her happiness? Was he marrying her through a mere
sentimental impulse, or for calculated convenience, or
from both? She must be certain; for his views might
change. He was yet in the full flow of philanthropic
enthusiasm. She shared his faith in human nature and
the triumph of right ideas; but once or twice she had
feared he was underrating the power of conservative
forces; that he had been away from Clarendon so long
as to lose the perspective of actual conditions, and that
he was cherishing expectations which might be disap-
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 189
pointed. Should this ever prove true, his disillusion might
be as far-reaching and as sudden as his enthusiasm. Then,
if he had not loved her for herself, she might be very
unhappy. She would have rejoiced to bring him youth
and beauty, and the things for which other women were
preferred; she would have loved to be the perfect mate,
one in heart, mind, soul and body, with the man with
whom she was to share the journey of life.
But this was a passing thought, born of weakness and
self-distrust, and she brushed it away with the tear that
had come with it, and smiled at its absurdity. Her youth
was past; with nothing to expect but an old age filled with
the small expedients of genteel poverty, there had opened
up to her, suddenly and unexpectedly, a great avenue
for happiness and usefulness. It was foolish, with so
much to be grateful for, to sigh for the unattainable.
His love must be all the stronger since it took no thought
of things which others would have found of controlling
importance. In choosing her to share his intellectual
life he had paid her a higher compliment than had he
praised the glow of her cheek or the contour of her throat.
In confiding Phil to her care he had given her a sacred
trust and confidence, for she knew how much he loved
The colonel's schemes for the improvement of Clarendon
went forward, with occasional setbacks. Several kilns of
brick turned out badly, so that the brickyard fell behind
with its orders, thus delaying the work a few weeks. The
foundations of the old cotton mill had been substantially
laid, and could be used, so far as their position permitted
for the new walls. When the bricks were ready, a gang of
masons was put to work. White men and coloured
were employed, under a white foreman. So great was
the demand for labour and so stimulating the colonel's
liberal wage, that even the drowsy Negroes around the
market house were all at work, and the pigs who had
slept near them were obliged to bestir themselves to keep
from being run over by the wagons that were hauling
brick and lime and lumber through the streets. Even
the cows in the vacant lot between the post-office and the
bank occasionally lifted up their gentle eyes as though
wondering what strange fever possessed the two-legged
creatures around them, urging them to such unnatural
The work went on smoothly for a week or two, when
the colonel had some words with Jim Green, the white
foreman of the masons. The cause of the dispute was not
important, but the colonel, as the master, insisted that
certain work should be done in a certain way. Green
wished to argue the point. The colonel brought the
discussion to a close with a peremptory command. The
foreman took offense, declared that he was no nigger to
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 191
be ordered around, and quit. The colonel promoted to
the vacancy George Brown, a coloured man, who was
the next best workman in the gang.
On the day when Brown took charge of the job the
white bricklayers, of whom there were two at work, laid
down their tools.
"What's the matter?" asked the colonel, when they
reported for their pay. "Aren't you satisfied with the
"Yes, we've got no fault to find with the wages."
"We won't work under George Brown. We don't
mind working with niggers, but we won't work under
"I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I must hire my own men.
Here is your money."
They would have preferred to argue their grievance,
and since the colonel had shut off discussion they
went down to Clay Jackson's saloon and argued the
^ase with all comers, with the usual distortion attending
one-sided argument. Jim Green had been superseded
by a nigger — this was the burden of their grievance.
Thus came the thin entering wedge that was to separate
the colonel from a measure of his popularity. There had
been no objection to the colonel's employing Negroes, no
objection to his helping their school — if he chose to waste
his money that way; but there were many who took offense
when a Negro was preferred to a white man.
Through Caxton the colonel learned of this criticism.
The colonel showed no surprise, and no annoyance, but
in his usual good-humoured way replied :
"We'll go right along and pay no attention to him.
There were only two white men in the gang, and they
have never worked under the Negro; they quit as soon
192 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
as I promoted him. I have hired many men in my time
and have made it an unvarying rule to manage my own
business in my own way. If anybody says anything to
you about it, you tell them just that. These people have
got to learn that we live in an industrial age, and success
demands of an employer that he utilise the most available
labour. After Green was discharged, George Brown was
the best mason left. He gets more work out of the men
than Green did — even in the old slave times Negroes made
the best of overseers; they knew their own people better
than white men could and got more out of them. When
the mill is completed it will give employment to five hun-
dred white women and fifty white men. But every dog
must have his day, so give the Negro his."
The colonel attached no great importance to the incident;
the places of the workmen were filled, and the work went
forward. He knew the Southern sensitiveness, and
viewed it with a good-natured tolerance, which, however,
stopped at injustice to himself or others. The very root
of his reform was involved in the proposition to discharge
a competent foreman because of an unreasonable preju-
dice. Matters of feeling were all well enough in some
respects — no one valued more highly than the colonel the
right to choose his own associates — but the right to work
and to do one's best work, was fundamental, as was the
right to have one's work done by those who could do it
best. Even a healthy social instinct might be perverted
into an unhealthy and unjust prejudice; most things evil
were the perversion of good.
The feeling with which the colonel thus came for the
first time directly in contact, a smouldering fire capable
always of being fanned into flame, had been greatly ex-
cited by the political campaign which began about the
third month after his arrival in Clarendon. An am-
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 193
bitious politician in a neighbouring State had led a suc-
cessful campaign on the issue of Negro disfranchisement.
Plainly unconstitutional, it was declared to be as plainly
necessary for the preservation of the white race and white
civilisation. The example had proved contagious, and
Fetters and his crowd, who dominated their State, had
raised the issue there. At first the pronouncement met
with slight response. The sister State had possessed
a Negro majority, which, in view of reconstruction history
was theoretically capable of injuring the State. Such
was not the case here. The State had survived recon-
struction with small injury. White supremacy existed,
in the main, by virtue of white efficiency as compared with
efficiency of a lower grade; there had been places, and
instances, where other methods had been occasionally
employed to suppress the Negro vote, but, taken as a
whole, the supremacy of the white man was secure. No
Negro had held a State office for twenty years. In Claren-
don they had even ceased to be summoned as jurors, and
when a Negro met a white man, he gave him the wall,
even if it were necessary to take the gutter to do so. But
this was not enough; this supremacy must be made perma-
nent. Negroes must be taught that they need never look
for any different state of things. New definitions were
given to old words, new pictures set in old frames, new
wine poured into old bottles.
"So long," said the candidate for governor, when he
spoke at Clarendon during the canvass, at a meeting pre-
sided over by the editor of the Anglo-Saxon, "so long as
one Negro votes in the State, so long are we face to face
with the nightmare of Negro domination. For example,
suppose a difference of opinion among white men so radical
as to divide their vote equally, the ballot of one Negro
would determine the issue. Can such a possibility be
194 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
contemplated without a shudder ? Our duty to ourselves,
to our children, and their unborn descendants, and to
our great and favoured race, impels us to protest, by
word, by vote, by arms if need be, against the enforced
equality of an inferior race. Equality anywhere, means
ultimately, equality everywhere. Equality at the polls
means social equality; social equality means intermarriage
and corruption of blood, and degeneration and decay.
What gentleman here would want his daughter to marry
a blubber-lipped, cocoanut-headed, kidney-footed, etc.,
There could be but one answer to the question, and it
came in thunders of applause. Colonel French heard
the speech, smiled at the old arguments, but felt a sudden
gravity at the deep-seated feeling which they evoked.
He remembered hearing, when a boy, the same argu-
ments. They had served their purpose once before,
with other issues, to plunge the South into war and
consequent disaster. Had the lesson been in vain? He
did not see the justice nor the expediency of the proposed
anti-Negro agitation. But he was not in politics, and
confined his protests to argument with his friends, who
listened but were not convinced.
Behind closed doors, more than one of the prominent
citizens admitted that the campaign was all wrong; that
the issues were unjust and reactionary, and that the
best interests of the State lay in uplifting every element
of the people rather than selecting some one class for
discouragement and degradation, and that the white
race could hold its own, with the Negroes or against
them, in any conceivable state of political equality. They
listened to the colonel's quiet argument that no State
could be freer or greater or more enlightened than the
average of its citizenship, and that any restriction of '"
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 195
rights that rested upon anything but impartial justice,
was bound to re-act, as slavery had done, upon the pros-
perity and progress of the State. They listened, which
the colonel regarded as a great point gained, and they
agreed in part, and he could almost understand why they
let their feelings govern their reason and their judgment,
and said no word to prevent an unfair and unconstitutional
scheme from going forward to a successful issue. He
knew that for a white man to declare, in such a com-
munity, for equal rights or equal justice for the Negro, or
to take the Negro's side in any case where the race issue
was raised, was to court social ostracism and political
death, or, if the feeling provoked were strong enough, an
even more complete form of extinction.
So the colonel was patient, and meant to be prudent.
His own arguments avoided the stirring up of prejudice, and
were directed to the higher motives and deeper principles
which underlie society, in the light of which humanity is
more than race, and the welfare of the State above that
of any man or set of men within it; it being an axiom as
true in statesmanship as in mathematics, that the whole
is greater than any one of its parts. Content to await the
uplifting power of industry and enlightenment, and su-
premely confident of the result, the colonel went serenely
forward in his work of sowing that others might reap.
The atmosphere of the Treadwell home was charged,
for the next few days, with electric currents. Graciella
knew that her aunt was engaged to Colonel French. But
she had not waited, the night before, to hear her aunt
express the wish that the engagement should be kept secret.
She was therefore bursting with information of which
she could manifest no consciousness without confessing
that she had been eavesdropping — a thing which she
knew Miss Laura regarded as detestably immoral. She
wondered at her aunt's silence. Except a certain subdued
air of happiness there was nothing to distinguish Miss
Laura's calm demeanor from that of any other day.
Graciella had determined upon her own attitude toward
her aunt. She would kiss her, and wish her happiness,
and give no sign that any thought of Colonel French
had ever entered her own mind. But this little drama,
rehearsed in the privacy of her own room, went unacted,
since the curtain did not rise upon the stage.
The colonel came and went as usual. Some dissimula-
tion was required on Graciella's part to preserve her usual
light-hearted manner toward him. She may have been
to blame in taking the colonel's attentions as intended for
herself; she would not soon forgive his slighting reference
to her. In his eyes she had been only a child, who ought
to go to school. He had been good enough to say that she
had the making of a fine woman. Thanks! She had
had a lover for at least two years, and a proposal of mar-
riage before Colonel French's shadow had fallen athwart
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 197
her life. She wished her Aunt Laura happiness; no one
could deserve it more, but was it possible to be happy with
a man so lacking in taste and judgment ?
Her aunt's secret began to weigh upon her mind, and
she effaced herself as much as possible when the colonel
came. Her grandmother had begun to notice this and
comment upon it, when the happening of a certain social
event created a diversion. This was the annual enter-
tainment known as the Assembly Ball. It was usually
held later in the year, but owing to the presence of several
young lady visitors in the town, it had been decided to
give it early in the fall.
The affair was in the hands of a committee, by whom
invitations were sent to most people in the county who had
any claims to gentility. The gentlemen accepting were
expected to subscribe to the funds for hall rent, music and
refreshments. These were always the best the town
afforded. The ball was held in the Opera House, a
rather euphemistic title for the large hall above Bar-
stow's cotton warehouse, where third-class theatrical
companies played one-night stands several times during
the winter, and where an occasional lecturer or conjurer
held forth. An amateur performance of "Pinafore " had
once been given there. Henry W. Grady had lectured
there upon White Supremacy; the Reverend Sam Small
had preached there on Hell. It was also distinguished
as having been refused, even at the request of the State
Commissioner of Education, as a place for Booker T.
Washington to deliver an address, which had been given
at the town hall instead. The Assembly Balls had always
been held in the Opera House. In former years the music
had been furnished by local Negro musicians, but there
were no longer any of these, and a band of string music was
brought in from another town. So far as mere wealth was
198 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
concerned, the subscribers touched such extremes as Ben
Dudley on the one hand and Colonel French on the other,
and included Barclay Fetters, whom Graciella had met on
the evening before her disappointment.
The Tread well ladies were of course invited, and the
question of ways and means became paramount. New
gowns and other accessories were imperative. Miss
Laura's one party dress had done service until it was past
redemption, and this was Graciella's first Assembly Ball.
Miss Laura took stock of the family's resources, and found
that she could afford only one gown. This, of course,
must be Graciella's. Her own marriage would entail cer-
tain expenses which demanded some present self-denial.
She had played wall-flower for several years, but now that
she was sure of a partner, it was a real sacrifice not to
attend the ball. But Graciella was young, and in such
matters youth has a prior right ; for she had yet to find her
Graciella magnanimously offered to remain at home,
but was easily prevailed upon to go. She was not entirely
happy, for the humiliating failure of her hopes had left
her for the moment without a recognised admirer, and the
fear of old maidenhood had again laid hold of her heart.
Her Aunt Laura's case was no consoling example. Not
one man in a hundred would choose a wife for Colonel
French's reasons. Most men married for beauty, and
Graciella had been told that beauty. that matured early,
like her own, was likely to fade early.
One humiliation she was spared. She had been as
silent about her hopes as Miss Laura was about her engage-
ment. Whether this was due to mere prudence or to
vanity — the hope of astonishing her little world by the
unexpected announcement — did not change the comfort-
ing fact that she had nothing to explain and nothing for
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 199
which to be pitied. If her friends, after the manner of
young ladies, had hinted at the subject and sought to find
a meaning in Colonel French's friendship, she had smiled
enigmatically. For this self-restraint, whatever had been
its motive, she now reaped her reward. The announce-
ment of her aunt's engagement would account for the
colonel's attentions to Graciella as a mere courtesy to a
young relative of his adanced.
With regard to Ben, Graciella was quite uneasy. She
had met him only once since their quarrel, and had meant
to bow to him politely, but with dignity, to show that she
bore no malice; but he had ostentatiously avoided her
glance. If he chose to be ill-natured, she had thought,
and preferred her enmity to her friendship, her conscience
was at least clear. She had been willing to forget his rude-
ness and be a friend to him. She could have been his true
friend, if nothing more; and he would need friends, unless
he changed a great deal.
When her mental atmosphere was cleared by the fading
of her dream, Ben assumed larger proportions. Perhaps
he had had cause for complaint; at least it was only
just to admit that he thought so. Nor had he suffered
in her estimation by his display of spirit in not waiting to
be jilted but in forcing her hand before she was quite
ready to play it. She could scarcely expect him to attend
her to the ball; but he was among the subscribers, and
could hardly avoid meeting her, or dancing with her,
without pointed rudeness. If he did not ask her to dance,
then either the Virginia reel, or the lancers, or quadrilles,
would surely bring them together; and though Graciella
sighed, she did not despair. She could, of course, allay
his jealousy at once by telling him of her Aunt Laura's
engagement, but this was not yet practicable. She must
find some other way of placating him.
200 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
Ben Dudley also had a problem to face in reference to
the ball — a problem which has troubled impecunious youth
since balls were invented — the problem of clothes. He
was not obliged to go to the ball. Graciella's outrageous
conduct relieved him of any obligation to invite her, and
there was no other woman with whom he would have
cared to ^o, or who would have cared, so far as he knew,
to go with him. For he was not a lady's man, and but for
his distant relationship would probably never have gone
to the Treadwells'. He was looked upon by young women
as slow, and he knew that Graciella had often been im-
patient at his lack of sprightliness. He could pay his
subscription, which was really a sort of gentility tax, the
failure to meet which would merely forfeit future invitations,
and remain at home. He did not own a dress suit, nor
had he the money to spare for one. He, or they, for he
and his uncle were one in such matters, were in debt
already, up to the limit of their credit, and he had sold the
last bale of old cotton to pay the last month's expenses,
while the new crop, already partly mortgaged, was not
yet picked. He knew that some young fellows in town
rented dress suits from Solomon Cohen, who, though
he kept only four suits in stock at a time, would send
to New York for others to rent out on this occasion,
and return them afterwards. But Ben would not
wear another man's clothes. He had borne insults
from Graciella that he never would have borne from
any one else, and that he would never bear again;
but there were things at which his soul protested.
Nor would Cohen's suits have fitted him. He was so
much taller than the average man for whom store
clothes were made.
He remained in a state of indecision until the day of the
ball. Late in the evening he put on his black cutaway
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 201
coat, which was getting a little small, trousers to match,
and a white waistcoat, and started to town on horseback
so as to arrive in time for the ball, in case he should decide,
at the last moment, to take part.
The Opera House was brilliantly lighted on the night
of the Assembly Ball. The dancers gathered at an earlier
hour than is the rule in the large cities. Many of the
guests came in from the country, and returned home
after the ball, since the hotel could accommodate only a
part of them.
When Ben Dudley, having left his horse at a livery
stable, walked up Main Street toward the hall, carriages
were arriving and discharging their freight. The ladies
were prettily gowned, their faces were bright and ani-
mated, and Ben observed that most of the gentlemen wore
dress suits; but also, much to his relief, that a number,
sufficient to make at least a respectable minority, did not.
He was rapidly making up his mind to enter, when Colonel
French's carriage, drawn by a pair of dashing bays and
driven by a Negro in livery, dashed up to the door and
discharged Miss Graciella Treadwell, radiantly beauti-
ful in a new low-cut pink gown, with pink flowers in
her hair, a thin gold chain with a gold locket at the
end around her slender throat, white slippers on her
feet and long white gloves upon her shapely hands
Ben shrank back into the shadow. He had never been
of an envious disposition; he had always looked upon
envy as a mean vice, unworthy of a gentleman ; but for a
moment something very like envy pulled at his heartstrings.
Graciella worshipped the golden calf. He worshipped
Graciella. But he had no money; he could not have taken
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 203
her to the ball in a closed carriage, drawn by blooded
horses and driven by a darky in livery.
Graciella's cavalier wore, with the ease and grace of
long habit, an evening suit of some fine black stuff that
almost shone in the light from the open door. At the
sight of him the waist of Ben's own coat shrunk up to the
arm-pits, and he felt a sinking of the heart as they passed
out of his range of vision. He would not appear to advan-
tage by the side of Colonel French, and he would not care
to appear otherwise than to advantage in Graciella's eyes.
He would not like to make more palpable, by contrast, the
difference between Colonel French and himself; nor could
he be haughty, distant, reproachful, or anything but
painfully self-conscious, in a coat that was not of the
proper cut, too short in the sleeves, and too tight under
While he stood thus communing with his own bitter
thoughts, another carriage, drawn by a pair of beautiful
black horses, drew up to the curb in front of him. The
horses were restive, and not inclined to stand still. Some
one from the inside of the carriage called to the coachman
through the open window.
"Ransom," said the voice, "stay on the box. Here,
you, open this carriage door!"
Ben looked around for the person addressed, but saw
no one near but himself.
"You boy there, by the curb, open this door, will you,
or hold the horses, so my coachman can!"
"Are you speaking to me?" demanded Ben angrily.
Just then one of the side-lights of the carriage flashed
on Ben's face.
"Oh, I beg pardon," said the man in the carriage, care-
lessly, "I took you for a nigger."
There could be no more deadly insult, though the mis-
204 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
take was not unnatural. Ben was dark, and the shadow
made him darker.
Ben was furious. The stranger had uttered words of
apology, but his tone had been insolent, and his apology
was more offensive than his original blunder. Had it not
been for Ben's reluctance to make a disturbance, he would
have struck the offender in the mouth. I f he had had a
pistol, he could have shot him; his great uncle Ralph, for
instance, would not have let him live an hour.
While these thoughts were surging through his heated
brain, the young man, as immaculately clad as Colonel
French had been, left the carriage, from which he helped
a lady, and with her upon his arm, entered the hall. In
the light that streamed from the doorway, Ben recognised
him as Barclay Fetters, who, having finished a checkered
scholastic career, had been at home at Sycamore for
several months. Much of this time he had spent in
Clarendon, where his father's wealth and influence gave
him entrance to good society, in spite of an ancestry which
mere character would not have offset. He knew young
Fetters very well by sight, since the latter had to pass
Mink Run whenever he came to town from Sycamore.
Fetters may not have known him, since he had been away
for much of the time in recent years, but he ought to
have been able to distinguish between a white man — a
gentleman — and a Negro. It was the insolence of an
upstart. Old Josh Fetters had been, in his younger days,
his uncle's overseer. An overseer's grandson treated him,
Ben Dudley, like dirt under his feet! Perhaps he had
judged him by his clothes. He would like to show Bar-
clay Fetters, if they ever stood face to face, that clothes
did not make the man, nor the gentleman.
Ben decided after this encounter that he would not go
on the floor of the ballroom; but unable to tear himself
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 205
away, he waited until everybody seemed to have gone in;
then went up the stairs and gained access, by a back way,
to a dark gallery in the rear of the hall, which the ushers
had deserted for the ballroom, from which he could, with-
out discovery, look down upon the scene below. His
eyes flew to Graciella as the needle to the pole. She was
dancing with Colonel French.
The music stopped, and a crowd of young fellows sur-
rounded her. When the next dance, which was a waltz,
began, she moved out upon the floor in the arms of Barclay
Ben swore beneath his breath. He had heard tales of
Barclay Fetters which, if true, made him unfit to touch a
decent woman. He left the hall, walked a short distance
down a street and around the corner to the bar in the rear
of the hotel, where he ordered a glass of whiskey. He
had never been drunk in his life, and detested the taste of
liquor; but he was desperate and had to do something; he
would drink till he was drunk, and forget his troubles.
Having never been intoxicated, he had no idea whatever
of the effect liquor would have upon him.
With each succeeding drink, the sense of his wrongs
broadened and deepened. At one stage his intoxication
took the form of an intense self-pity. There was some-
thing rotten in the whole scheme of things. Why should
he be poor, while others were rich, and while fifty thousand
dollars in gold were hidden in or around the house where
he lived ? Why should Colonel French, an old man, who
was of no better blood than himself, be rich enough to rob
him of the woman whom he loved ? And why, above all,
should Barclay Fetters have education and money and
every kind of opportunity, which he did not appreciate,
while he, who would have made good use of them, had
nothing? With this sense of wrong, which grew as his
206 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
brain clouded more and more, there came, side by side, a
vague zeal to right these wrongs. As he grew drunker
still, his thoughts grew less coherent; he lost sight of his
special grievance, and merely retained the combative
He had reached this dangerous stage, and had, fortu-
nately, passed it one step farther along the road to uncon-
sciousness — fortunately, because had he been sober, the
result of that which was to follow might have been more
serious — when two young men, who had come down from
the ballroom for some refreshment entered the barroom
and asked for cocktails. While the barkeeper was com-
pounding the liquor, the young men spoke of the ball.
"That little Treadwell girl is a peach," said one. "I
could tote a bunch of beauty like that around the ball-
room all night."
The remark was not exactly respectful, nor yet exactly
disrespectful. Ben looked up from his seat. The speaker
was Barclay Fetters, and his companion one Tom McRae,
another dissolute young man of the town. Ben got up
unsteadily and walked over to where they stood.
"I want you to un'erstan'," he said thickly, "that no
genTman would mensh'n a lady's name in a place like
this, or shpeak dissuspeckerly 'bout a lady 'n any place;
an' I want you to unerstan' fu'thermo' that you're no
gen'l'man, an' that I'm goin' t' lick you, by G — d ! "
"The hell you are!" returned Fetters. A scowl of sur-
prise rose on his handsome face, and he sprang to an atti-
tude of defence.
Ben suited the action to the word, and struck at Fetters.
But Ben was drunk and the other two were sober, and in
three minutes Ben lay on the floor with a sore head and a
black eye. His nose was bleeding copiously, and the
crimson stream had run down upon his white shirt and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 207
vest. Taken all in all, his appearance was most dis-
reputable. By this time the liquor he had drunk had its
full effect, and complete unconsciousness supervened to
save him, for a little while, from the realisation of his dis-
"Who is the mucker, anyway?" asked Barclay Fetters,
readjusting his cuffs, which had slipped down in the melee.
"He's a chap by the name of Dudley," answered McRae;
"lives at Mink Run, between here and Sycamore, you
"Oh, yes, I've seen him — the 'po' white' chap that lives
with the old lunatic that's always digging for buried
'For my name was Captain Kidd,
As I sailed, as I sailed.'
But let's hurry back, Tom, or we'll lose the next dance."
Fetters and his companion returned to the ball. The
barkeeper called a servant of the hotel, with whose aid,
Ben was carried upstairs and put to bed, bruised in body
and damaged in reputation.
Ben's fight with young Fetters became a matter of public
comment the next day after the ball. His conduct was
cited as sad proof of the degeneracy of a once fine old
family. He had been considered shiftless and not well
educated, but no one had suspected that he was a drunkard
and a rowdy. Other young men in the town, high-
spirited young fellows with plenty of money, sometimes
drank a little too much, and occasionally, for a point of
honour, gentlemen were obliged to attack or defend them-
selves, but when they did, they used pistols, a gentleman's
weapon. Here, however, was an unprovoked and brutal
attack with fists, upon two gentlemen in evening dress and
without weapons to defend themselves, "one of them,"
said the Anglo-Saxon, "the son of our distinguished fellow
citizen and colleague in the legislature, the Honourable
When Colonel French called to see Miss Laura, the after-
noon of next day after the ball, the ladies were much con-
cerned about the affair.
"Oh, Henry," exclaimed Miss Laura, "what is this
dreadful story about Ben Dudley? They say he was
drinking at the hotel, and became intoxicated, and that
when Barclay Fetters and Tom McRae went into the
hotel, he said something insulting about Graciella, and
when they rebuked him for his freedom he attacked them
violently, and that when finally subdued he was put to
bed unconscious and disgracefully intoxicated. Graciella
is very angry, and we all feel ashamed enough to sink into
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 209
the ground. What can be the matter with Ben? He
hasn't been around lately, and he has quarrelled with
Graciella. I never would have expected anything like
this from Ben."
" It came from his great-uncle Ralph," said Mrs. Tread-
well. "Ralph was very wild when he was young, but
settled down into a very polished gentleman. I danced
with him once when he was drunk, and I never knew it —
it was my first ball, and I was intoxicated myself, with
excitement. Mother was scandalised, but father laughed
and said boys would be boys. But poor Ben hasn't had
his uncle's chances, and while he has always behaved well
here, he could hardly be expected to carry his liquor like a
gentleman of the old school."
"My dear ladies," said the colonel, "we have heard only
one side of the story. I guess there's no doubt Ben was
intoxicated, but we know he isn't a drinking man, and one
drink — or even one drunk — doesn't make a drunkard, nor
one fight a rowdy. Barclay Fetters and Tom McRae are
not immaculate, and perhaps Ben can exonerate himself."
"I certainly hope so," said Miss Laura earnestly. "I
am sorry for Ben, but I could not permit a drunken rowdy
to come to the house, or let my niece be seen upon the
street with him."
"It would only be fair," said the colonel, "to give him
a chance to explain, when he comes in again. I rather
like Ben. He has some fine mechanical ideas, and the
making of a man in him, unless I am mistaken. I have
been hoping to find a place for him in the new cotton mill,
when it is ready to run."
They were still speaking of Ben, when there was an
irresolute knock at the rear door of the parlour, in which
they were seated.
"Miss Laura, O Miss Laura," came a muffled voice.
210 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Kin I speak to you a minute. It's mighty pertickler,
Miss Laura, fo' God it is ! "
"Laura," said the colonel, "bring Catharine in. I saw
that you were troubled once before when you were com-
pelled to refuse her something. Henceforth your burdens
shall be mine. Come in, Catharine," he called, "and
tell us what's the matter. What's your trouble ? What's
it all about?"
The woman, red-eyed from weeping, came in, wringing
"Miss Laura," she sobbed, "an' Colonel French, my
husban' Bud is done gone and got inter mo' trouble. He's
run away f 'm Mistah Fettuhs, w'at he wuz sol' back to in de
spring, an' he's done be'n fine' fifty dollahs mo', an' he's
gwine ter be sol' back ter Mistah Fettuhs in de mawnin',
fer ter finish out de ole fine and wo'k out de new one. I's
be'n ter see 'im in de gyard house, an' he say Mistah
Haines, w'at use' ter be de constable and is a gyard fer
Mistah Fettuhs now, beat an' 'bused him so he couldn*
stan' it; an' 'ceptin' I could pay all dem fines, he'll be
tuck back dere; an' he say ef dey evah beats him ag'in,
dey'll eithuh haf ter kill him, er he'll kill some er dem.
An' Bud is a rash man, Miss Laura, an' I'm feared dat he'll
do w'at he say, an' ef dey kills him er he kills any er dem,
it'll be all de same ter me — I'll never see 'm no mo' in dis
worP. Ef I could borry de money, Miss Laura — Mars'
Colonel — I'd wuk my fingers ter de bone 'tel I paid back
de las' cent. Er ef you'd buy Bud, suh, lack you did Unc'
Peter, he would n' mind wukkin' fer you, suh, fer Bud is
a good wukker we'n folks treats him right; an' he had n*
never had no trouble nowhar befo' he come hyuh, suh."
"How did he come to be arrested the first time?"
asked the colonel.
"He didn't live hyuh, suh; I used ter live hyuh, an' I
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 211
ma'ied him down ter Madison, where I wuz wukkin'. We
fell out one day, an' I got mad and lef 'im — it wuz all my
fault an' I be'n payin' fer it evuh since — an' I come back
home an' went ter wuk hyuh, an' he come aftuh me, an
de fus' day he come, befo' I knowed he wuz hyuh, dis yer
Mistah Haines tuck 'im up, an' lock 'im up in de gyard
house, like a hog in de poun', an' he didn' know nobody,
an' dey didn' give 'im no chanst ter see nobody, an' dey
tuck 'im roun' ter Squi' Reddick nex' mawnin', an' fined
'im an' sol' 'im ter dis yer Mistuh Fettuhs fer ter wo'k
out de fine; an' I be'n wan tin' all dis time ter hyuh fum
'im, an' I'd done be'n an' gone back ter Madison to look
fer 'im, an' foun' he wuz gone. An' God knows I didn*
know what had become er 'im, 'tel he run away de yuther
time an' dey tuck 'im an' sent 'im back again. An' he
hadn' done nothin' de fus' time, suh, but de Lawd know
w'at he won' do ef dey sen's 'im back any mo'."
Catharine had put her apron to her eyes and was sob-
bing bitterly. The story was probably true. The colonel
had heard underground rumours about the Fetters plan-
tation and the manner in which it was supplied with
labourers, and his own experience in old Peter's case,
had made them seem not unlikely. He had seen Cath-
arine's husband, in the justice's court, and the next day,
in the convict gang behind Turner's buggy. The man
had not iooked like a criminal ; that he was surly and des-
perate may as well have been due to a sense of rank
injustice as to an evil nature. That a wrong had been
done, under cover of law, was at least more than likely;
but a deed of mercy could be made to right it. The love
of money might be the root of all evil, but its control was
certainly a means of great good. The colonel glowed
with the consciousness of this beneficent power to scatter
212 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Laura," he said, "I will attend to this; it is a matter
about which you should not be troubled. Don't be
alarmed, Catharine. Just be a good girl and help Miss
Laura all you can, and I'll look after your husband, and
pay his fine and let him work it out as a free man."
"Thank'y, suh, thank'y, Mars' Colonel, an' Miss
Laura! An' de Lawd is gwine bless you, suh, you an'
my sweet young lady, fuh bein' good to po' folks w'at
can't do nuthin' to he'p deyse'ves out er trouble," said
Catharine backing out with her apron to her eyes.
On leaving Miss Laura, the colonel went round to the
office of Squire Reddick, the justice of the peace, to
inquire into the matter of Bud Johnson. The justice was
out of town, his clerk said, but would be in his office at
nine in the morning, at which time the colonel could
speak to him about Johnson's fine.
The next morning was bright and clear, and cool
enough to be bracing. The colonel, alive with pleasant
thoughts, rose early and after a cold bath, and a leisurely
breakfast, walked over to the mill site, where the men
were already at work. Having looked the work over and
given certain directions, he glanced at his watch, and find-
ing it near nine, set out for the justice's office in time to
reach it by the appointed hour. Squire Reddick was at
his desk, upon which his feet rested, while he read a news-
paper. He looked up with an air of surprise as the colonel
"Why, good mornin', Colonel French," he said genially.
"I kind of expected you a while ago; the clerk said you
might be around. But you didn' come, so I supposed
you'd changed yo' mind."
"The clerk said that you would be here at nine," replied
the colonel; "it is only just nine."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 213
"Did he? Well, now, that's too bad! I do generally
git around about nine, but I was earlier this mornin' and
as everybody was here, we started in a little sooner than
usual. You wanted to see me about Bud Johnson ?"
"Yes, I wish to pay his fine and give him work."
"Well, that's too bad; but you weren't here, and Mr.
Turner was, and he bought his time again for Mr. Fetters.
I'm sorry, you know, but first come, first served."
The colonel was seriously annoyed. He did not like
to believe there was a conspiracy to frustrate his good
intention; but that result had been accomplished, whether
by accident or design. He had failed in the first thing
he had undertaken for the woman he loved and was to
marry. He would see Fetters' man, however, and come
to some arrangement with him. With Fetters the hiring
of the Negro was purely a commercial transaction, con-
ditioned upon a probable profit, for the immediate payment
of which, and a liberal bonus, he would doubtless relin-
quish his claim upon Johnson's services.
Learning that Turner, who had acted as Fetters's agent
in the matter, had gone over to Clay Johnson's saloon, he
went to seek him there. He found him, and asked for a
proposition. Turner heard him out.
"Well, Colonel French," he replied with slightly veiled
insolence, "I bought this nigger's time for Mr. Fetters,
an' unless I'm might'ly mistaken in Mr. Fetters, no amount
of money can get the nigger until he's served his time out.
He's defied our rules and defied the law, and defied me,
and assaulted one of the guards ; and he ought to be made
an example of. We want to keep 'im; he's a bad nigger,
an' we've got to handle a lot of 'em, an' we need 'im for
an example — he keeps us in trainin'."
"Have you any power in the matter?" demanded the
eolonel, restraining his contempt.
214 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"Me? No, not me! I couldn' let the nigger go for
his weight in gol' — an' wouldn' if I could. I bought 'im
in for Mr. Fetters, an' he's the only man that's got any
say about 'im."
"Very well," said the colonel as he turned away, "I'll
"I don't know whether you will or not," said Turner
to himself, as he shot a vindictive glance at the colonel's
retreating figure. "Fetters has got this county where he
wants it, an' I'll bet dollars to bird shot he ain't goin' to
let no coon-flavoured No'the'n interloper come down here
an' mix up with his arrangements, even if he did hail
from this town way back yonder. This here nigger prob-
lem is a South'en problem, and outsiders might's well
keep their han's off. Me and Haines an' Fetters is the
kind o' men to settle it."
The colonel was obliged to confess to Miss Laura his
temporary setback, which he went around to the house
and did immediately.
"It's the first thing I've undertaken yet for your sake,
Laura, and I've got to report failure, so far."
"It's only the first step," she said, consolingly.
"That's all. I'll drive out to Fetters's place to-morrow,
and arrange the matter. By starting before day, I can
make it and transact my business, and get back by night,
without hurting the horses."
Catharine was called in and the situation explained to
her. Though clearly disappointed at the delay, and not
yet free of apprehension that Bud might do something
rash, she seemed serenely confident of the colonel's ulti-
mate success. In her simple creed, God might sometimes
seem to neglect his black children, but no harm could come
to a Negro who had a rich white gentleman for friend and
It was not yet sunrise when the colonel set out next
day, after an early breakfast, upon his visit to Fetters.
There was a crisp freshness in the air, the dew was thick
upon the grass, the clear blue sky gave promise of a bright
day and a pleasant journey.
The plantation conducted by Fetters lay about twenty
miles to the south of Clarendon, and remote from any rail-
road, a convenient location for such an establishment, for
railroads, while they bring in supplies and take out produce,
also bring in light and take out information, both of which
are fatal to certain fungus growths, social as well as vege-
table, which flourish best in the dark.
The road led by Mink Run, and the colonel looked over
toward the house as they passed it. Old and weather-
beaten it seemed, even in the distance, which lent it no en-
chantment in the bright morning light. When the colonel
had travelled that road in his boyhood, great forests of
primeval pine had stretched for miles on either hand,
broken at intervals by thriving plantations. Now all was
changed. The tall and stately growth of the long-leaf pine
had well nigh disappeared; fifteen years before, the turpen-
tine industry, moving southward from Virginia, along the
upland counties of the Appalachian slope, had swept
through Clarendon County, leaving behind it a trail of
blasted trunks and abandoned stills. Ere these had yielded
to decay, the sawmill had followed, and after the sawmill
the tar kiln, so that the dark green forest was now only a
waste of blackened stumps and undergrowth, topped by the
216 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
vulgar short-leaved pine and an occasional oak or juniper.
Here and there they passed an expanse of cultivated land,
and there were many smaller clearings in which could be
seen, plowing with gaunt mules or stunted steers, some
heavy-footed Negro or listless "po' white man;" or women
and children, black or white. In reply to a question, the
coachman said that Mr. Fetters had worked all that coun-
try for turpentine years before, and had only taken up
cotton raising after the turpentine had been exhausted
from the sand hills.
He had left his mark, thought the colonel. Like the
plague of locusts, he had settled and devoured and then
moved on, leaving a barren waste behind him.
As the morning advanced, the settlements grew thinner,
until suddenly, upon reaching the crest of a hill, a great
stretch of cultivated lowland lay spread before them. In
the centre of the plantation, near the road which ran
through it, stood a square, new, freshly painted frame
house, which would not have seemed out of place in some
Ohio or Michigan city, but here struck a note alien to its
surroundings. Off to one side, like the Negro quarters of
another generation, were several rows of low, unpainted
cabins, built of sawed lumber, the boards running up and
down, and battened with strips where the edges met.
The fields were green with cotton and with corn, and there
were numerous gangs of men at work, with an apparent
zeal quite in contrast with the leisurely movement of those
they had passed on the way. It was a very pleasing
" Dis yer, suh," said the coachman in an awed tone, " is
Mistah Fetters's plantation. You ain' gwine off nowhere,
and leave me alone whils' you are hyuh, is you, suh?"
"No," said the colonel, "I'll keep my eye on you.
Nobody '11 trouble you while you're with me."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 217
Passing a clump of low trees, the colonel came upon a
group at sight of which he paused involuntarily. A gang
of Negroes were at work. Upon the ankles of some was
riveted an iron band to which was soldered a chain, at
the end of which in turn an iron ball was fastened. Accom-
panying them was a white man, in whose belt was stuck a
revolver, and who carried in one hand a stout leather
strap, about two inches in width with a handle by which
to grasp it. The gang paused momentarily to look at
the traveller, but at a meaning glance from the overseer
fell again to their work of hoeing cotton. The white man
stepped to the fence, and Colonel French addressed him.
"Will you tell me where I can find Mr. Fetters? "'in-
quired the colonel.
"No, suh, unless he's at the house. He may have
went away this mornin', but I haven't heard of it. But
you drive along the road to the house, an' somebody'll
The colonel seemed to have seen the overseer before,
but could not remember where.
"Sam," he asked the coachman, "who is that white
"Dat's Mistah Haines, suh — use' ter be de constable at
Cla'endon, suh. I wouldn' lak to be in no gang under
him, suh, sho' I wouldn', no, suh!"
After this ejaculation, which seemed sincere as well as
fervent, Sam whipped up the horses and soon reached
the house. A Negro boy came out to meet them.
" Is Mr. Fetters at home, " inquired the colonel ?
"I— I don' know, suh— I— I'll ax Mars' Turner.
He disappeared round the house and in a few minutes
218 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
returned with Turner, with whom the colonel exchanged
"I wish to see Mr. Fetters," said the colonel.
"Well, you can't see him."
"Because he ain't here. He left for the capital this
mornin', to be gone a week. You'll be havin' a fine
drive, down here and back."
The colonel ignored the taunt.
" When will Mr. Fetters return ? " he inquired.
"I'm shore I don't know. He don't tell me his secrets.
But I'll tell you, Colonel French, that if you're after that
nigger, you're wastin' your time. He's in Haines's gang,
and Haines loves him so well that Mr. Fetters has to keep
Bud in order to keep Haines. There's no accountin' for
these vi'lent affections, but they're human natur', and they
have to be 'umoured."
"I'll talk to your master," rejoined the colonel, restrain-
ing his indignation and turning away.
Turner looked after him vindictively.
"He'll talk to my master, like as if I was a nigger! It
'11 be a long time before he talks to Fetters, if that's who
he means — if I can prevent it. Not that it would make
any difference, but I'll just keep him on the anxious
It was nearing noon, but the colonel had received no
invitation to stop, or eat, or feed his horses. He ordered
Sam to turn and drive back the way they had come.
As they neared the group of labourers they had passed
before, the colonel saw four Negroes, in response to an
imperative gesture from the overseer, seize one of their
number, a short, thickset fellow, overpower some small
resistance which he seemed to make, throw him down
with his face to the ground, and sit upon his extremities
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 219
while the overseer applied the broad leathern thong
vigorously to his bare back.
The colonel reached over and pulled the reins mechan-
ically. His instinct was to interfere; had he been near
enough to recognise in the Negro the object of his visit,
Bud Johnson, and in the overseer the ex-constable, Haines,
he might have yielded to the impulse. But on second
thought he realised that he had neither authority nor
strength to make good his interference. For aught he
knew, the performance might be strictly according to law.
So, fighting a feeling of nausea which he could hardly
conquer, he ordered Sam to drive on.
The coachman complied with alacrity, as though glad
to escape from a mighty dangerous place. He had
known friendless coloured folks, who had strayed down
in that neighbourhood to be lost for a long time; and he
had heard of a spot, far back from the road, in a secluded
part of the plantation, where the graves of convicts who
had died while in Fetters's service were very numerous.
During the next month the colonel made several at-
tempts to see Fetters, but some fatality seemed always
to prevent their meeting. He finally left the matter of
finding Fetters to Caxton, who ascertained that Fetters
would be in attendance at court during a certain week, at
Carthage, the county seat of the adjoining county, where
the colonel had been once before to inspect a cotton mill.
Thither the colonel went on the day of the opening of
court. His train reached town toward noon and he went
over to the hotel. He wondered if he would find the pro-
prietor sitting where he had found him some weeks before.
But the buggy was gone from before the piazza, and there
was a new face behind the desk. The colonel registered,
left word that he would be in to dinner, and then went
over to the court house, which lay behind the trees across
The court house was an old, square, hip-roofed brick
structure, whose walls, whitewashed the year before, had
been splotched and discoloured by the weather. From
one side, under the eaves, projected a beam, which sup-
ported a bell rung by a rope from the window below. A
hall ran through the centre, on either side of which were
the county offices, while the court room with a judge's
room and jury room, occupied the upper floor.
The colonel made his way across the square, which
showed the usual signs of court being in session. There
were buggies hitched to trees and posts here and there, a
few Negroes sleeping in the sun, and several old coloured
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 221
women with little stands for the sale of cakes, and fried
fish, and cider.
The colonel went upstairs to the court room. It was
fairly well filled, and he remained standing for a few
minutes near the entrance. The civil docket was evidently
on trial, for there was a jury in the box, and a witness
was being examined with some prolixity with reference to
the use of a few inches of land which lay on one side or on
the other of a disputed boundary. From what the colonel
could gather, that particular line fence dispute had
been in litigation for twenty years, had cost several
lives, and had resulted in a feud that involved a whole
The testimony was about concluded when the colonel
entered, and the lawyers began their arguments. The
feeling between the litigants seemed to have affected their
attorneys, and the court more than once found it necessary
to call counsel to order. The trial was finished, however,
without bloodshed; the case went to the jury, and court
was adjourned until two o'clock.
The colonel had never met Fetters, nor had he seen any-
one in the court room who seemed likely to be the man. But
he had seen his name freshly written on the hotel register,
and he would doubtless go there for dinner. There would
be ample time to get acquainted and transact his business
before court reassembled for the afternoon.
Dinner seemed to be a rather solemn function, and
except at a table occupied by the judge and the lawyers, in
the corner of the room farthest from the colonel, little
was said. A glance about the room showed no one whom
the colonel could imagine to be Fetters, and he was about
to ask the waiter if that gentleman had yet entered the din-
ing room, when a man came in and sat down on the oppo-
site side of the table. The colonel looked up, and met
222 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the cheerful countenance of the liveryman from whom
he had hired a horse and buggy some weeks before.
"Howdy do?" said the newcomer amiably. "Hope
you've been well."
"Quite well," returned the colonel, "how are you ?"
"Oh, just tol'able. Tendin' co't ? "
"No, I came down here to see a man that's attending
court — your friend Fetters. I suppose he'll be in to
"Oh, yes, but he ain't come in yet. I reckon you find
the ho-tel a little different from the time you were here
"This is a better dinner than I got," replied the colonel,
"and I haven't seen the landlord anywhere, nor his
"No, he ain't here no more. Sad loss to Carthage!
You see Bark Fetters — that's Bill's boy that's come home
from the No'th from college — Bark Fetters come down
here one day, an' went in the ho-tel, an' when Lee Dickson
commenced to put on his big airs, Bark cussed 'im out,
and Lee, who didn' know Bark from Adam, cussed 'im
back, an' then Bark hauled off an' hit 'im. They had it
hot an' heavy for a while. Lee had more strength, but
Bark had more science, an' laid Lee out col'. Then Bark
went home an' tol' the ole man, who had a mortgage on
the ho-tel, an' he sol' Lee up. I hear he's barberin' or
somethin' er that sort up to Atlanta, an' the hotel's run
by another man. There's Fetters comin' in now."
The colonel glanced in the direction indicated, and
was surprised at the appearance of the redoubtable Fetters,
who walked over and took his seat at the table with the
judge and the lawyers. He had expected to meet a tall,
long-haired, red-faced, truculent individual, in a slouch
hat and a frock coat, with a loud voice and a dictatorial
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 223
manner, the typical Southerner of melodrama. He saw
a keen-eyed, hard-faced, small man, slightly gray, clean-
shaven, wearing a well-fitting city-made business suit of
light tweed. Except for a few little indications, such
as the lack of a crease in his trousers, Fetters looked like
any one of a hundred business men whom the colonel
might have met on Broadway in any given fifteen minutes
during business hours.
The colonel timed his meal so as to leave the dining-
room at the same moment with Fetters. He went up to
Fetters, who was chewing a toothpick in the office, and
made himself known.
"I am Mr. French," he said — he never referred to him-
self by his military title — " and you, I believe, are Mr.
"Yes, sir, that's my name," replied Fetters without
enthusiasm, but eyeing the colonel keenly between nar-
"I've been trying to see you for some time, about a
matter," continued the colonel, "but never seemed able to
catch up with you before."
"Yes, I heard you were at my house, but I was asleep
upstairs, and didn't know you'd be'n there till you'd
"Your man told me you had gone to the capital for two
"My man? Oh, you mean Turner! Well, I reckon
you must have riled Turner somehow, and he thought he'd
have a joke on you."
"I don't quite see the joke," said the colonel, restraining
his displeasure. "But that's ancient history. Can we
sit down over here in the shade and talk by ourselves for a
Fetters followed the colonel out of doors, where they drew
224 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
a couple of chairs to one side, and the colonel stated the
nature of his business. He wished to bargain for the
release of a Negro, Bud Johnson by name, held to service
by Fetters under a contract with Clarendon County. He
was willing to pay whatever expense Fetters had been to
on account of Johnson, and an amount sufficient to cover
any estimated profits from his services.
Meanwhile Fetters picked his teeth nonchalantly, so
nonchalantly as to irritate the colonel. The colonel's
impatience was not lessened by the fact that Fetters
waited several seconds before replying.
"Well, Mr. Fetters, what say you?"
"Colonel French," said Fetters, "I reckon you can't
have the nigger."
"Is it a matter of money?" asked the colonel. "Name
your figure. I don't care about the money. I want the
man for a personal reason."
"So do I," returned Fetters, coolly," and money's no
object to me. I've more now than I know what to do
The colonel mastered his impatience. He had one
appeal which no Southerner could resist.
"Mr. Fetters," he said, "I wish to get this man released
to please a lady. "
"Sorry to disoblige a lady," returned Fetters, "but I'll
have to keep the nigger. I run a big place, and I'm obliged
to maintain discipline. This nigger has been fractious and
contrary, and I've sworn that he shall work out his time.
I have never let any nigger get the best of me — or white
man either," he added significantly.
The colonel was angry, but controlled himself long
enough to make one more effort. "I'll give you five hun-
dred dollars for your contract," he said rising from his
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 225
"You couldn't get him for five thousand."
"Very well, sir," returned the colonel, "this is not the
end of this. I will see, sir, if a man can be held in slavery
in this State, for a debt he is willing and ready to pay.
You'll hear more of this before I'm through with it."
"Another thing, Colonel French," said Fetters, his
quiet eyes glittering as he spoke, "I wonder if you recollect
an incident that occurred years ago, when we went to the
academy in Clarendon?"
"If you refer," returned the colonel promptly, "to the
time I chased you down Main Street, yes — I recalled it the
first time I heard of you when I came back to Clarendon —
and I remember why I did it. It is a good omen."
"That's as it may be," returned Fetters quietly. "I
didn't have to recall it; I've never forgotten it. Now you
want something from me, and you can't have it."
"We shall see," replied the colonel. "I bested you
then, and I'll best you now."
" We shall see," said Fetters.
Fetters was not at all alarmed, indeed he smiled rather
pityingly. There had been a time when these old aristo-
crats could speak, and the earth trembled, but that day
was over. In this age money talked, and he had known
how to get money, and how to use it to get more. There
were a dozen civil suits pending against him in the court
house there, and he knew in advance that he should win
them every one, without directly paying any juryman a
dollar. That any nigger should get away while he wished
to hold him, was — well, inconceivable. Colonel French
might have money, but he, Fetters, had men as well; and
if Colonel French became too troublesome about this
nigger, this friendship for niggers could be used in such
a way as to make Clarendon too hot for Colonel French.
He really bore no great malice against Colonel French
226 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
for the little incident of their school days, but he had not
forgotten it, and Colonel French might as well learn a
lesson. He, Fetters, had not worked half a lifetime for
a commanding position, to yield it to Colonel French or
any other man. So Fetters smoked his cigar tranquilly,
and waited at the hotel for his anticipated verdicts. For
there could not be a jury impanelled in the county which
did not have on it a majority of men who were mortgaged
to Fetters. He even held the Judge's note for several
The colonel waited at the station for the train back to
Clarendon. When it came, it brought a gang of convicts,
consigned to Fetters. They had been brought down in
the regular "Jim Crow" car, for the colonel saw coloured
women and children come out ahead of them. The
colonel watched the wretches, in coarse striped garments,
with chains on their legs and shackles on their hands,
unloaded from the train and into the waiting wagons.
There were burly Negroes and flat-shanked, scrawny
Negroes. Some wore the ashen hue of long confinement.
Some were shamefaced, some reckless, some sullen. A
few white convicts among them seemed doubly ashamed
— both of their condition and of their company; they kept
together as much as they were permitted, and looked with
contempt at their black companions in misfortune. Fet-
ters's man and Haines, armed with whips, and with pistols
in their belts, were present to oversee the unloading, and
the colonel could see them point him out to the State
officers who had come in charge of the convicts, and see
them look at him with curious looks. The scene was not
edifying. There were criminals in New York, he knew
very well, but he had never seen one. They were not
marched down Broadway in stripes and chains. There
were certain functions of society, as of the body, which
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 227
were more decently performed in retirement. There was
work in the State for the social reformer, and the colonel,
undismayed by his temporary defeat, metaphorically
girded up his loins, went home, and, still metaphorically,
set out to put a spoke in Fetters's wheel.
His first step was to have Caxton look up and abstract
for him the criminal laws of the State. They were bad
enough, in all conscience. Men could be tried without
jury and condemned to infamous punishments, involving
stripes and chains, for misdemeanours which in more
enlightened States were punished with a small fine or
brief detention. There were, for instance, no degrees of
larceny, and the heaviest punishment might be inflicted,
at the discretion of the judge, for the least offense.
The vagrancy law, of which the colonel had had some
experience, was an open bid for injustice and "graft"
and clearly designed to profit the strong at the expense of
the weak. The crop-lien laws were little more than the
instruments of organised robbery. To these laws the
colonel called the attention of some of his neighbours
with whom he was on terms of intimacy. The enlightened
few had scarcely known of their existence, and quite
agreed that the laws were harsh and ought to be changed.
But when the colonel, pursuing his inquiry, undertook
to investigate the operation of these laws, he found an
appalling condition. The statutes were mild and benefi-
cent compared with the results obtained under cover of
them. Caxton spent several weeks about the State looking
up the criminal records, and following up the sentences
inflicted, working not merely for his fee, but sharing the
colonel's indignation at the state of things unearthed.
Convict labour was contracted out to private parties,
with little or no effective State supervision, on terms
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 229
which, though exceedingly profitable to the State, were
disastrous to free competitive labour. More than one
lawmaker besides Fetters was numbered among these
Leaving the realm of crime, they found that on hundreds
of farms, ignorant Negroes, and sometimes poor whites,
were held in bondage under claims of debt, or under
contracts of exclusive employment for long terms of years
— contracts extorted from ignorance by craft, aided by
State laws which made it a misdemeanour to employ such
persons elsewhere. Free men were worked side by side
with convicts from the penitentiary, and women and
children herded with the most depraved criminals, thus
breeding a criminal class to prey upon the State.
In the case of Fetters alone the colonel found a dozen
instances where the law, bad as it was, had not been suffi-
cient for Fetters's purpose, but had been plainly violated.
Caxton discovered a discharged guard of Fetters, who
told him of many things that had taken place at Sycamore;
and brought another guard one evening, at that time
employed there, who told him, among other things, that
Bud Johnson's life, owing to his surliness and rebellious
conduct, and some spite which Haines seemed to bear
against him, was simply a hell on earth — that even a
strong Negro could not stand it indefinitely.
A case was made up and submitted to the grand jury.
Witnesses were summoned at the colonel's instance. At
the last moment they all weakened, even the discharged
guard, and their testimony was not sufficient to justify
The colonel then sued out a writ of habeas corpus for
the body of Bud Johnson, and it was heard before the
common pleas court at Clarendon, with public opinion
divided between the colonel and Fetters. The court
230 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
held that under his contract, for which he had paid the
consideration, Fetters was entitled to Johnson's services.
The colonel, defeated but still undismayed, ordered
Caxton to prepare a memorial for presentation to the
federal authorities, calling their attention to the fact that
peonage, a crime under the Federal statutes, was being
flagrantly practised in the State. This allegation was
supported by a voluminous brief, giving names and dates
and particular instances of barbarity. The colonel was
not without some quiet support in this movement; there
were several public-spirited men in the county, including
his able lieutenant Caxton, Dr. Price and old General
Thornton, none of whom were under any obligation to
Fetters, and who all acknowledged that something ought
to be done to purge the State of a great disgrace.
There was another party, of course, which deprecated
any scandal which would involve the good name of the
State or reflect upon the South, and who insisted that in
time these things would pass away and there would be no
trace of them in future generations. But the colonel in-
sisted that so also would the victims of the system pass
away, who, being already in existence, were certainly en-
titled to as much consideration as generations yet unborn ; it
was hardly fair to sacrifice them to a mere punctilio. The
colonel had reached the conviction that the regenerative
forces of education and enlightenment, in order to have
any effect in his generation, must be reinforced by some
positive legislative or executive action,, or else the untram-
melled forces of graft and greed would override them ; and
he was human enough, at this stage of his career to wish
to see the result of his labours, or at least a promise of
The colonel's papers were forwarded to the proper place,
whence they were referred from official to official, and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 231
from department to department. That it might take
some time to set in motion the machinery necessary to
reach the evil, the colonel knew very well, and hence was
not impatient at any reasonable delay. Had he known
that his presentation had created a sensation in the
highest quarter, but that owing to the exigencies of national
politics it was not deemed wise, at that time, to do any-
thing which seemed like an invasion of State rights
or savoured of sectionalism, he might not have been
so serenely confident of the outcome. Nor had Fetters
known as much, would he have done the one thing which
encouraged the colonel more than anything else. Caxton
received a message one day from Judge Bullard, repre-
senting Fetters, in which Fetters made the offer that if
Colonel French would stop his agitation on the labour
laws, and withdraw any papers he had filed, and promise
to drop the whole matter, he would release Bud Johnson.
The colonel did not hesitate a moment. He had gone
into this fight for Johnson — or rather to please Miss
Laura. He had risen now to higher game; nothing less
than the system would satisfy him.
"But, Colonel," said Caxton, "it's pretty hard on the
nigger. They'll kill him before his time's up. If you'll
give me a free hand, I'll get him anyway."
"Perhaps it's just as well you shouldn't know. But
I have friends at Sycamore."
"You wouldn't break the law?" asked the colonel.
"Fetters is breaking the law," replied Caxton. "He's
holding Johnson for debt — and whether that is lawful or
not, he certainly has no right to kill him."
"You're right," replied the colonel. "Get Johnson
away, I don't care how. The end justifies the means —
that's an argument that goes down here. Get him away,
232 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
and send him a long way off, and he can write for his
wife to join him. His escape need not interfere with our
other plans. We have plenty of other cases against Fet-
Within a week, Johnson, with the connivance of a
bribed guard, a poor-white man from Clarendon, had
escaped from Fetters and seemingly vanished from
Beaver County. Fetters's lieutenants were active in their
search for him, but sought in vain.
Ben Dudley awoke the morning after the assembly
ball, with a violent headache and a sense of extreme
depression, which was not relieved by the sight of his
reflection in the looking-glass of the bureau in the hotel
bedroom where he found himself.
One of his eyes was bloodshot, and surrounded by a
wide area of discolouration, and he was conscious of
several painful contusions on other portions of his
body. His clothing was badly disordered and stained
with blood; and, all in all, he was scarcely in a condition
to appear in public. He made such a toilet as he could,
and, anxious to avoid observation, had his horse brought
from the livery around to the rear door of the hotel, and
left for Mink Run by the back streets. He did not return
to town for a week, and when he made his next appearance
there, upon strictly a business visit, did not go near the
Treadwells', and wore such a repellent look that no one
ventured to speak to him about his encounter with Fetters
and McRae. He was humiliated and ashamed, and
angry with himself and all the world. He had lost Gra-
ciella already; any possibility that might have remained
of regaining her affection, was destroyed by his having
made her name the excuse for a barroom broil. His
uncle was not well, and with the decline of his health, his
monomania grew more acute and more absorbing, and
he spent most of his time in the search for the treasure
and in expostulations with Viney to reveal its whereabouts.
The supervision of the plantation work occupied Ben
234 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
most of the time, and during his intervals of leisure he
sought to escape unpleasant thoughts by busying himself
with the model of his cotton gin.
His life had run along in this way for about two weeks
after the ball, when one night Barclay Fetters, while coming
to town from his father's plantation at Sycamore, in com-
pany with Turner, his father's foreman, was fired upon
from ambush, in the neighbourhood of Mink Run, and
seriously wounded. Groaning heavily and in a state of
semi-unconsciousness he was driven by Turner, in the
same buggy in which he had been shot, to Doctor Price's
house, which lay between Mink Run and the town.
The doctor examined the wound, which was serious.
A charge of buckshot had been fired at close range, from
a clump of bushes by the wayside, and the charge had
taken effect in the side of the face. The sight of one
eye was destroyed beyond a peradventure, and that of
the other endangered by a possible injury to the optic
nerve. A sedative was administered, as many as possible
of the shot extracted, and the wounds dressed. Mean-
time a messenger was despatched to Sycamore for Fetters,
senior, who came before morning post-haste. To his
anxious inquiries the doctor could give no very hopeful
"He's not out of danger," said Doctor Price, "and won't
be for several days. I haven't found several of those
shot, and until they're located I can't tell what will hap-
pen. Your son has a good constitution, but it has been
abused somewhat and is not in the best condition to
throw off an injury."
"Do the best you can for him, Doc," said Fetters, "and
I'll make it worth your while. And as for the double-
damned scoundrel that shot him in the dark, I'll rake
this county with a fine-toothed comb till he's found.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 235
F Bark dies, the murderer shall hang as high as Haman,
if it costs me a million dollars, or, if Bark gets well, he
shall have the limit of the law. No man in this State
shall injure me or mine and go unpunished. 3 '
The next day Ben Dudley was arrested at Mink Run,
on a warrant sworn out by Fetters, senior, charging Dudley
with attempted murder. The accused was brought to
Clarendon, and lodged in Beaver County jail.
Ben sent for Caxton, from whom he learned that his
offense was not subject to bail until it became certain that
Barclay Fetters would recover. For in the event of his
death, the charge would be murder; in case of recovery,
the offense would be merely attempted murder, or shooting
with intent to kill, for which bail was allowable. Mean-
time he would have to remain in jail.
In a day or two young Fetters was pronounced out of
danger, so far as his life was concerned, and Colonel
French, through Caxton, offered to sign Ben's bail bond.
To Caxton 's surprise Dudley refused to accept bail at the
"I don't want any favours from Colonel French," he
said decidedly. "I prefer to stay in jail rather than to
be released on his bond."
So he remained in jail.
Graciella was not so much surprised at Ben's refusal
to accept bail. She had reasoned out, with a fine instinct,
the train of emotions which had brought her lover to grief,
and her own share in stirring them up. She could not
believe that Ben was capable of shooting a man from
ambush; but even if he had, it would have been for love
of her; and if he had not, she had nevertheless been the
moving cause of the disaster. She would not willingly
have done young Mr. Fetters an injury. He had favoured
her by his attentions, and, if all stories were true, he had
236 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
behaved better than Ben, in the difficulty between them,
and had suffered more. But she loved Ben, as she grew
to realise, more and more. She wanted to go and see
Ben in jail but her aunt did not think it proper. Appear-
ances were all against Ben, and he had not purged him-
self by any explanation. So Graciella sat down and wrote
him a long letter. She knew very well that the one thing
that would do him most good would be the announcement
of her Aunt Laura's engagement to Colonel French.
There was no way to bring this about, except by first
securing her aunt's permission. This would make neces-
sary a frank confession, to which, after an effort, she
"Aunt Laura," she said, at a moment when they were
alone together, "I know why Ben will not accept bail
from Colonel French, and why he will not tell his side of
the quarrel between himself and Mr. Fetters. He was
foolish enough to imagine that Colonel French was
coming to the house to see me, and that I preferred the
colonel to him. And, Aunt Laura, I have a confession
to make; I have done something for which I want to beg
your pardon. I listened that night, and overheard the
colonel ask you to be his wife. Please, dear Aunt Laura,
forgive me, and let me write and tell Ben — just Ben, in
confidence. No one else need know it."
Miss Laura was shocked and pained, and frankly said
so, but could not refuse the permission, on condition that
Ben should be pledged to keep her secret, which, for
reasons of her own, she was not yet ready to make public.
She, too, was fond of Ben, and hoped that he might clear
himself of the accusation. So Graciella wrote the letter.
She was no more frank in it, however, on one point, than
she had been with her aunt, for she carefully avoided saying
that she had taken Colonel French's attentions seriously,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 237
or built any hopes upon them, but chided Ben for putting
such a construction upon her innocent actions, and
informed him, as proof of his folly, and in the strictest
confidence, that Colonel French was engaged to her
Aunt Laura. She expressed her sorrow for his predica-
ment, her profound belief in his innocence, and her
unhesitating conviction that he would be acquitted of the
To this she expected by way of answer a long letter of
apology, explanation, and protestations of undying love.
She received, instead, a brief note containing a cold
acknowledgment of her letter, thanking her for her inter-
est in his welfare, and assuring her that he would respect
Miss Laura's confidence. There was no note of love or
reproachfulness — mere cold courtesy.
Graciella was cut to the quick, so much so that she did
not even notice Ben's mistakes in spelling. It would have
been better had he overwhelmed her with reproaches —
it would have shown at least that he still loved her. She
cried bitterly, and lay awake very late that night, wondering
what else she could do for Ben that a self-respecting
young lady might. For the' first time, she was more con-
cerned about Ben than about herself. If by marrying
him immediately she could have saved him from danger
and disgrace she would have done so without one selfish
thought — unless it were selfish to save one whom she loved.
The preliminary hearing in the case of the State vs.
Benjamin Dudley was held as soon as Doctor Price
pronounced Barclay Fetters out of danger. The pro-
ceedings took place before Squire Reddick, the same
justice from whom the colonel had bought Peter's services,
and from whom he had vainly sought to secure Bud
238 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
In spite of Dudley's curt refusal of his assistance, the
colonel, to whom Miss Laura had conveyed a hint of the
young man's frame of mind, had instructed Caxton to
spare no trouble or expense in the prisoner's interest.
There was little doubt, considering Fetters's influence and
vindictiveness, that Dudley would be remanded, though
the evidence against him was purely circumstantial; but
it was important that the evidence should be carefully
scrutinised, and every legal safeguard put to use.
The case looked bad for the prisoner. Barclay Fetters
was not present, nor did the prosecution need him; his
testimony could only have been cumulative.
Turner described the circumstances of the shooting
from the trees by the roadside near Mink Run, and the
driving of the wounded man to Doctor Price's.
Doctor Price swore to the nature of the wound, its
present and probable consequences, which involved the
loss of one eye and perhaps the other, and produced the
shot he had extracted.
McRae testified that he and Barclay Fetters had gone
down between dances, from the Opera Ball, to the hotel
bar, to get a glass of seltzer. They had no sooner entered
the bar r than the prisoner, who had evidently been drinking
heavily and showed all the signs of intoxication, had
picked a quarrel with them and assaulted Mr. Fetters.
Fetters, with the aid of the witness, had defended himself.
In the course of the altercation, the prisoner had used
violent and profane language, threatening, among other
things, to kill Fetters. All this testimony was objected
to, but was admitted as tending to show a motive for the
crime. This closed the State's case.
Caxton held a hurried consultation with his client.
Should they put in any evidence, which would be merely
to show their hand, since the prisoner would in any event
THE COLONEL'S DREAM
undoubtedly be bound over? Ben was unable to deny
what had taken place at the hotel, for he had no distinct
recollection of it — merely a blurred impression, like the
memory of a bad dream. He could not swear that he
had not threatened Fetters. The State's witnesses had
refrained from mentioning the lady's name; he could do
no less. So far as the shooting was concerned, he had
had no weapon with which to shoot. His gun had been
stolen that very day, and had not been recovered.
"The defense will offer no testimony," declared Caxton,
at the result of the conference.
The justice held the prisoner to the grand jury, and
fixed the bond at ten thousand dollars. Graciella's in-
formation had not been without its effect, and when
Caxton suggested that he could still secure bail, he had
little difficulty in inducing Ben to accept Colonel French's
friendly offices. The bail bond was made out and signed,
and the prisoner released.
Caxton took Ben to his office after the hearing. There
Ben met the colonel, thanked him for his aid and friend-
ship, and apologised for his former rudeness.
"I was in a bad way, sir," he said, "and hardly knew
what I was doing. But I know I didn't shoot Bark
Fetters, and never thought of such a thing."
" I'm sure you didn't, my boy," said the colonel, laying
his hand, in familiar fashion, upon the young fellow's
shoulder, "and we'll prove it before we quit. There
are some ladies who believe the same thing, and would
like to hear you say it."
"Thank you, sir," said Ben. "I should like to tell
them, but I shouldn't want to enter their house until I
am cleared of this charge. I think too much of them to
expose them to any remarks about harbouring a man
out on bail for a penitentiary offense. I'll write to them,
240 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
sir, and thank them for their trust and friendship, and
you can tell them for me, if you will, that I'll come to see
them when not only I, but everybody else, can say that I
am fit to go."
"Your feelings do you credit," returned the colonel
warmly, "and however much they would like to see you,
I'm sure the ladies will appreciate your delicacy. As your
friend and theirs, you must permit me to serve you
further, whenever the opportunity offers, until this affair is
Ben thanked the colonel from a full heart, and went
back to Mink Run, where, in the effort to catch up the
plantation work, which had fallen behind in his absence, he
sought to forget the prison atmosphere and lose the prison
pallor. The disgrace of having been in jail was indelible,
and the danger was by no means over. The sympathy
of his friends would have been priceless to him, but to
remain away from them would be not only the honourable
course to pursue, but a just punishment for his own folly.
For Graciella, after all, was only a girl — a young girl, and
scarcely yet to be judged harshly for her actions ; while he
was a man grown, who knew better, and had not acted
according to his lights.
Three days after Ben Dudley's release on bail, Clarendon
was treated to another sensation. Former constable
Haines, now employed as an overseer at Fetters's convict
farm, while driving in a buggy to Clarendon, where
he spent his off-duty spells, was shot from ambush near
Mink Run, and his right arm shattered in such a manner
as to require amputation.
Colonel French's interest in Ben Dudley's affairs had
not been permitted to interfere with his various enterprises.
Work on the chief of these, the cotton mill, had gone
steadily forward, with only occasional delays, incident to
the delivery of material, the weather, and the health of
the workmen, which was often uncertain for a day or two
after pay day. The coloured foreman of the brick-
layers had been seriously ill; his place had been filled by
a white man, under whom the walls were rising rapidly.
Jim Green, the foreman whom the colonel had formerly
discharged, and the two white bricklayers who had quit
at the same time, applied for reinstatement. The colonel
took the two men on again, but declined to restore Green,
who had been discharged for insubordination.
Green went away swearing vengeance. At Clay
Johnson's saloon he hurled invectives at the colonel, to
all who would listen, and with anger and bad whiskey,
soon worked himself into a frame of mind that was ripe
for any mischief. Some of his utterances were reported
to the colonel, who was not without friends — the wealthy
seldom are; but he paid no particular attention to them,
except to keep a watchman at the mill at night, lest this
hostility should seek an outlet in some attempt to injure
the property. The precaution was not amiss, for once
the watchman shot at a figure prowling about the mill.
The lesson was sufficient, apparently, for there was no
immediate necessity to repeat it.
The shooting of Haines, while not so sensational as that
242 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
of Barclay Fetters, had given rise to considerable feeling
against Ben Dudley. That two young men should quar-
rel, and exchange shots, would not ordinarily have been
a subject of extended remark. But two attempts at
assassination constituted a much graver affair. That
Dudley was responsible for this second assault was the
generally accepted opinion. Fetters's friends and hirelings
were openly hostile to young Dudley, and Haines had been
heard to say, in his cups, at Clay Jackson's saloon, that
when young Dudley was tried and convicted and sent to
the penitentiary, he would be hired out to Fetters, who
had the county contract, and that he, Haines, would be
delighted to have Dudley in his gang. The feeling against
Dudley grew from day to day, and threats and bets were
openly made that he would not live to be tried. There
was no direct proof against him, but the moral and cir-
cumstantial evidence was quite sufficient to convict him
in the eyes of Fetters 's friends and supporters. The
colonel was sometimes mentioned, in connection with the
affair as a friend of Ben's, for whom he had given bail,
and as an enemy of Fetters, to whom his antagonism in
various ways had become a matter of public knowledge
One day, while the excitement attending the second
shooting was thus growing, Colonel French received
through the mail a mysteriously worded note, vaguely hint-
ing at some matter of public importance which the writer
wished to communicate to him, and requesting a private
interview for the purpose, that evening, at the colonel's
house. The note, which had every internal evidence of
sincerity, was signed by Henry Taylor, the principal of the
coloured school, whom the colonel had met several times
in reference to the proposed industrial school. From the
tenor of the communication, and what he knew about
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 243
Taylor, the colonel had no doubt that the matter was one
of importance, at least not one to be dismissed without
examination. He thereupon stepped into Caxton's office
and wrote an answer to the letter, fixing eight o'clock that
evening as the time, and his own library as the place, of a
meeting with the teacher. This letter he deposited in the
post-office personally — it was only a step from Caxton's
office. Upon coming out of the post-office he saw the
teacher standing on an opposite corner. When the colonel
had passed out of sight, Taylor crossed the street, entered
the post-office, and soon emerged with the letter. He had
given no sign that he saw the colonel, but had looked rather
ostentatiously the other way when that gentleman had
glanced in his direction.
At the appointed hour there was a light step on the
colonel's piazza. The colonel was on watch, and opened
the door himself, ushering Taylor into his library, a very
handsome and comfortable room, the door of which he
carefully closed behind them.
The teacher looked around cautiously.
"Are we alone, sir?"
"Yes, entirely so."
"And can any one hear us?"
"No. What have you got to tell me?"
"Colonel French," replied the other, "I'm in a hard
situation, and I want you to promise that you'll never
let on to any body that I told you what I'm going
"All right, Mr. Taylor, if it is a proper promise to
make. You can trust my discretion."
"Yes, sir, I'm sure I can. We coloured folks, sir, are
often accused of trying to shield criminals of our own race,
or of not helping the officers of the law to catch them.
Maybe we does, suh," he said, lapsing in his earnestness,
244 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
into bad grammar, "maybe we does sometimes, but not
"What reason?" asked the colonel.
"Well, sir, fer the reason that we ain't always shore that
a coloured man will get a fair trial, or any trial at all, or
that he'll get a just sentence after he's been tried. We
have no hand in makin' the laws, or in enforcin' 'em; we
are not summoned on jury; and yet we're asked to do
the work of constables and sheriffs who are paid for
arrestin' criminals, an' for protectin' 'em from mobs, which
they don't do."
" I have no doubt every word you say is true, Mr. Taylor,
and such a state of things is unjust, and will some day be
different, if I can help to make it so. But, nevertheless,
all good citizens, whatever their colour, ought to help to
preserve peace and good order."
"Yes, sir, so they ought; and I want to do just that; I
want to co-operate, and a whole heap of us want to co-
operate with the good white people to keep down crime
and lawlessness. I know there's good white people who
want to see justice done — but they ain't always strong
enough to run things; an' if any one of us coloured folks
tells on another one, he's liable to lose all his frien's. But
I believe, sir, that I can trust you to save me harmless, and
to see that nothin' mo' than justice is done to the coloured
"Yes, Taylor, you can trust me to do all that I can, and
I think I have considerable influence, Now, what's on
your mind? Do you know who shot Haines and Mr.
"Well, sir, you're a mighty good guesser. It ain't so
much Mr. Fetters an' Mr. Haines I'm thinkin' about, for
that place down the country is a hell on earth, an' they're
the devils that runs it. But there's a friend of yo'rs in
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 245
trouble, for something he didn' do, an' I wouldn' stan' for
an innocent man bein' sent to the penitentiary — though
many a po' Negro has been. Yes, sir, I know that Mr.
Ben Dudley didn' shoot them two white men."
" So do I," rejoined the colonel. " Who did ? "
"It was Bud Johnson, the man you tried to get away
from Mr. Fetters — yo'r coachman tol' us about it, sir, an'
we know how good a friend of ours you are, from what
you've promised us about the school. An' I wanted you
to know, sir. You are our friend, and have showed con-
fidence in us, and I wanted to prove to you that we are not
ungrateful, an' that we want to be good citizens."
"I had heard," said the colonel, "that Johnson had
escaped and left the county."
"So he had, sir, but he came back. They had 'bused
him down at that place till he swore he'd kill every one that
had anything to do with him. It was Mr. Turner he shot
at the first time and he hit young Mr. Fetters by accident.
He stole a gun from ole Mr. Dudley's place at Mink Run,
shot Mr. Fetters with it, and has kept it ever since, and
shot Mr. Haines with it. I suppose they'd 'a' ketched
him before, if it hadn't be'n for suspectin' young Mr.
"Where is Johnson now," asked the colonel.
" He's hidin' in an old log cabin down by the swamp back
of Mink Run. He sleeps in the daytime, and goes out at
night to get food and watch for white men from Mr. Fet-
"Does his wife laiow where he is?"
"No, sir; he ain't never let her know.
"By the way, Taylor," asked the colonel, "how do you
know all this?"
" Well, sir," replied the teacher, with something which,
in an uneducated Negro would have been a very pro-
246 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
nounced chuckle, "there's mighty little goin' on roun' here
that I don't find out, sooner or later."
"Taylor,' said the colonel, rising to terminate the inter-
view, "you have rendered a public service, have proved
yourself a good citizen, and have relieved Mr. Dudley of
serious embarrassment. I will see that steps are taken
to apprehend Johnson, and will keep your participation
in the matter secret, since you think it would hurt your
influence with your people. And I promise you faithfully
that every effort shall be made to see that Johnson has a
fair trial and no more than a just punishment."
He gave the Negro his hand.
"Thank you, sir, thank you, sir," replied the teacher,
returning the colonel's clasp. "If there were more white
men like you, the coloured folks would have no more
The colonel let Taylor out, and watched him as he
looked cautiously up and down the street to see that he
was not observed. That coloured folks, or any other
kind, should ever cease to have trouble, was a vain imagin-
ing. But the teacher had made a well-founded complaint
of injustice which ought to be capable of correction; and
he had performed a public-spirited action, even though he
had felt constrained to do it in a clandestine manner.
About his own part in the affair the colonel was troubled.
It was becoming clear to him that the task he had under-
taken was no light one — not the task of apprehending
Johnson and clearing Dudley, but that of leavening the
inert mass of Clarendon with the leaven of enlightenment.
With the best of intentions, and hoping to save a life, he had
connived at turning a murderer loose upon the community.
It was true that the community, through unjust laws, had
made him a murderer, but it was no part of the colonel's
plan to foster or promote evil passions, or to help the
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 247
victims of the law to make reprisals. His aim was to bring
about, by better laws and more liberal ideas, peace, har-
mony, and universal good will. There was a colossal
work for him to do, and for all whom he could enlist with
him in this cause. The very standards of right and wrong
had been confused by the race issue, and must be set right
by the patient appeal to reason and humanity. Primitive
passions and private vengeance must be subordinated to
law and order and the higher good. A new body of
thought must be built up, in which stress must be laid
upon the eternal verities, in the light of which difficulties
which now seemed unsurmountable would be gradually
But this halcyon period was yet afar off, and the colonel
roused himself to the duty of the hour. With the best
intentions he had let loose upon the communtiy, in a
questionable way, a desperate character. It was no less
than his plain duty to put the man under restraint. To
rescue from Fetters a man whose life was threatened, was
one thing. To leave a murderer at large now would be
to endanger innocent lives, and imperil Ben Dudley's
The arrest of Bud Johnson brought an end to the case
against Ben Dudley. The prosecuting attorney, who was
under political obligations to Fetters, seemed reluctant to
dismiss the case, until Johnson's guilt should have been
legally proved; but the result of the Negro's preliminary
hearing rendered this position no longer tenable; the case
against Ben was nolled, and he could now hold up his head
as a free man, with no stain upon his character.
Indeed, the reaction in his favour as one unjustly
indicted, went far to wipe out from the public mind
the impression that he was a drunkard and a rowdy.
It was recalled that he was of good family and that his
248 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
forbears had rendered valuable service to the State, and
that he had never been seen to drink before, or known
to be in a fight, but that on the contrary he was quiet and
harmless to a fault. Indeed, the Clarendon public would
have admired a little more spirit in a young man, even to
the extent of condoning an occasional lapse into license.
There was sincere rejoicing at the Treadwell house
when Ben, now free in mind, went around to see the ladies.
Miss Laura was warmly sympathetic and congratulatory;
and Graciella, tearfully happy, tried to make up by a
sweet humility, through which shone the true womanliness
of a hitherto undeveloped character, for the past stings
and humiliations to which her selfish caprice had sub-
jected her lover. Ben resumed his visits, if not with quite
their former frequency, and it was only a day or two later
that the colonel found him and Graciella, with his own
boy Phil, grouped in familiar fashion on the steps, where
Ben was demonstrating with some pride of success, the
operation of his model, into which he was feeding cotton
when the colonel came up.
The colonel stood a moment and looked at the machine.
"It's quite ingenious," he said. "Explain the prin-
Ben described the mechanism, in brief, well-chosen
words which conveyed the thought clearly and concisely,
and revealed a fine mind for mechanics and at the same
time an absolute lack of technical knowledge.
"It would never be of any use, sir," he said, at the end,
" for everybody has the other kind. But it's another way,
and I think a better."
"It is clever," said the colonel thoughtfully, as he went
into the house.
The colonel had not changed his mind at all since
asking Miss Laura to be his wife. The glow of happiness
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 249
still warmed her cheek, the spirit of youth still lingered in
her eyes and in her smile. He might go a thousand
miles before meeting a woman who would please him
more, take better care of Phil, or preside with more dignity
over his household. Her simple grace would adapt itself
to wealth as easily as it had accommodated itself to poverty.
It would be a pleasure to travel with her to new scenes
and new places, to introduce her into a wider world, to
see her expand in the generous sunlight of ease and freedom
True to his promise, the colonel made every effort to see
that Bud Johnson should be protected against mob violence
and given a fair trial. There was some intemperate talk
among the partisans of Fetters, and an ominous gathering
upon the streets the day after the arrest, but Judge Miller,
of the Beaver County circuit, who was in Clarendon that
day, used his influence to discountenance any disorder,
and promised a speedy trial of the prisoner. The crime
was not the worst of crimes, and there was no excuse for
riot or lynch law. The accused could not escape his just
As a result of the judge's efforts, supplemented by the
colonel's and those of Doctor Price and several ministers,
any serious fear of disorder was removed, and a handful
of Fetters's guards who had come up from his convict
farm and foregathered with some choice spirits of the
town at Clay Jackson's saloon, went back without attempt-
ing to do what they had avowedly come to town to ac-
One morning the colonel, while overseeing the work
at the new mill building, stepped on the rounded handle
of a chisel, which had been left lying carelessly on the
floor, and slipped and fell, spraining his ankle severely.
He went home in his buggy, which was at the mill, and
sent for Doctor Price, who put his foot in a plaster bandage
and ordered him to keep quiet for a week.
Peter and Phil went around to the Tread wells' to inform
the ladies of the accident. On reaching the house after
the accident, the colonel had taken off his coat, and sent
Peter to bring him one from the closet off his bedroom.
When the colonel put on the coat, he felt .some papers
in the inside pocket, and taking them out, recognised the
two old letters he had taken from the lining of his desk
several months before. The housekeeper, in a moment
of unusual zeal, had discovered and mended the tear in
the sleeve, and Peter had by chance selected this particular
coat to bring to his master. When Peter started, with
Phil, to go to the Treadwells', the colonel gave him the
two letters. .
"Give these," he said, "to Miss Laura, and tell her I
found them in the old desk."
It was not long before Miss Laura came, with Graciella,
to call on the colonel. When they had expressed the proper
sympathy, and had been assured that the hurt was not
dangerous, Miss Laura spoke of another matter.
"Henry," she said, with an air of suppressed excite-
ment, "I have made a discovery. I don't quite know
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 251
what it means, or whether it amounts to anything, but
in one of the envelopes you sent me just now there was a
paper signed by Mr. Fetters. I do not know how it could
have been left in the desk; we had searched it, years ago,
in every nook and cranny, and found nothing."
The colonel explained the circumstances of his discovery
of the papers, but prudently refrained from mentioning
how long ago they had taken place.
Miss Laura handed him a thin, oblong, yellowish slip
of paper, which had been folded in the middle; it was a
printed form, upon which several words had been filled
in with a pen.
"It was enclosed in this," she said, handing him another
The colonel took the papers and glanced over them.
"Mother thinks," said Miss Laura anxiously, "that
they are the papers we were looking for, that prove that
Fetters was in father's debt."
The colonel had been thinking rapidly. The papers
were, indeed, a promissory note from Fetters to Mr.
Treadwell, and a contract and memorandum of certain
joint transactions in turpentine and cotton futures. The
note was dated twenty years back. Had it been pro-
duced at the time of Mr. Treadwell's death, it would
not have been difficult to collect, and would have
meant to his survivors the difference between poverty
and financial independence. Now it was barred by the
lapse of time.
Miss Laura was waiting in eager expectation. Out-
wardly calm, her eyes were bright, her cheeks were
glowing, her bosom rose and fell excitedly. Could he
tell her that this seemingly fortunate accident was merely
the irony of fate — a mere cruel reminder of a former
misfortune ? No, she could not believe it !
252 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"It has made me happy, Henry," she said, while he still
kept his eyes bent on the papers to conceal his perplexity,
"it has made me very happy to think that I may not come
to you empty-handed."
( "Dear woman," he thought, "you shall not. If the note
is not good, it shall be made good."
"Laura," he said aloud, "I am no lawyer, but Caxton
shall look at these to-day, and I shall be very much
mistaken if they do not bring you a considerable sum of
money. Say nothing about them, however, until Caxton
reports. He will be here to see me to-day and by to-
morrow you shall have his opinion."
Miss Laura went away with a radiantly hopeful face,
and as she and Graciella went down the street, the colonel
noted that her step was scarcely less springy than her
niece's. It was worth the amount of Fetters's old note
to make her happy; and since he meant to give her all
that she might want, what better way than to do it by
means of this bit of worthless paper? It would be a
harmless deception, and it would save the pride of three
gentlewomen, with whom pride was not a disease, to poison
and scorch and blister, but an inspiration to courtesy, and
kindness, and right living. Such a pride was worth
cherishing even at a sacrifice, which was, after all, no
He had already sent word to Caxton of his accident,
requesting him to call at the house on other business.
Caxton came in the afternoon, and when the matter con-
cerning which he had come had been disposed of, Colonel
French produced Fetters's note.
"Caxton," he said, "I wish to pay this note and let it
seem to have come from Fetters."
Caxton looked at the note.
"Why should you pay it?" he asked. "I mean," he
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 253
added, noting a change in the colonel's expression, "why
shouldn't Fetters pay it?"
"Because it is outlawed," he replied, "and we could
hardly expect him to pay for anything he didn't have to
pay. The statute of limitations runs against it after
fifteen years — and it's older than that, much older than
Caxton made a rapid mental calculation.
"That is the law in New York," he said, "but here the
statute doesn't begin to run for twenty years. The twenty
years for which this note was given expires to-day."
"Then it is good?" demanded the colonel, looking at
"It is good," said Caxton, "provided there is no defence
to it except the statute, and provided I can file a petition
on it in the county clerk's office by four o'clock, the time
at which the office closes. It is now twenty minutes of
"Can you make it?"
Caxton, since his acquaintance with Colonel French,
had learned something more about the value of half an
hour than he had ever before appreciated, and here was an
opportunity to test his knowledge. He literally ran the
quarter of a mile that lay between the colonel's residence
and the court house, to the open-eyed astonishment of
those whom he passed, some of whom wondered whether
he were crazy, and others whether he had committed a
crime. He dashed into the clerk's office, seized a pen, and
the first piece of paper handy, and began to write a
petition. The clerk had stepped into the hall, and when
he came leisurely in at three minutes to four, Caxton dis-
covered that he had written his petition on the back of a
blank marriage license. He folded it, ran his pen through
254 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the printed matter, endorsed it, "Estate of Tread way vs.
Fetters," signed it with the name of Ellen Treadway, as
executrix, by himself as her attorney, swore to it before
the clerk, and handed it to that official, who raised his
eyebrows as soon as he saw the endorsement.
"Now, Mr. Munroe," said Caxton, "if you'll enter
that on the docket, now, as of to-day, I'll be obliged to you.
I'd rather have the transaction all finished up while I wait.
Your fee needn't wait the termination of the suit. I'll
pay it now and take a receipt for it."
The clerk whistled to himself as he read the petition in
order to make the entry.
"That's an old-timer," he said. "It'll make the old
"Yes," said Caxton. "Do me a favour, and don't
say anything about it for a day or two. I don't think the
suit will ever come to trial."
On the day following these events, the colonel, on the
arm of old Peter, hobbled out upon his front porch, and
seating himself in a big rocking chair, in front of which a
cushion had been adjusted for his injured ankle, composed
himself to read some arrears of mail which had come in the
day before, and over which he had only glanced casually.
When he was comfortably settled, Peter and Phil walked
down the steps, upon the lowest of which they seated
themselves. The colonel had scarcely begun to read
before he called to the old man.
"Peter," he said, "I wish you'd go upstairs, and look
in my room, and bring me a couple of light-coloured
cigars from the box on my bureau — the mild ones, you
"Yas, suh, I knows, suh, de mil' ones, dem wid de
gol' ban's 'roun' 'em. Now you stay right hyuh, chile,
till Peter come back."
Peter came up the steps and disappeared in the door-
The colonel opened a letter from Kirby, in which that
energetic and versatile gentleman assured the colonel
that he had evolved a great scheme, in which there were
millions for those who would go into it. He had already
interested Mrs. Jerviss, who had stated she would be
governed by what the colonel did in the matter. The
letter went into some detail upon this subject, and then
drifted off into club and social gossip. Several of the
colonel's friends had inquired particularly about him.
256 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
One had regretted the loss to their whist table. Another
wanted the refusal of his box at the opera, if he were not
coming back for the winter.
"I think you're missed in a certain quarter, old fellow.
I know a lady who would be more than delighted to see
you. I am invited to her house to dinner, ostensibly to
talk about our scheme, in reality to talk about you.
" But this is all by the way. The business is the thing.
Take my proposition under advisement. We all made
money together before; we can make it again. My option
has ten days to run. Wire me before it is up what reply
to make. I know what you'll say, but I want your
The colonel knew too what his reply would be, and that
it would be very different from Kirby's anticipation. He
would write it, he thought, next day, so that Kirby should
not be kept in suspense, or so that he might have time
to enlist other capital in the enterprise. The colonel
felt really sorry to disappoint his good friends. He
would write and inform Kirby of his plans, including that
of his approaching marriage.
He had folded the letter and laid it down, and had
picked up a newspaper, when Peter returned with the
cigars and a box of matches.
"Mars Henry?" he asked, "w'at's gone wid de chile?"
"Phil?" replied the colonel, looking toward the step,
from which the boy had disappeared. "I suppose he
went round the house."
"Mars Phil! O Mars Phil!" called the old man.
There was no reply.
Peter looked round the corner of the house, but Phil was
nowhere visible. The old man went round to the back
yard, and called again, but did not find the child.
"I hyuhs de train comin'; I 'spec's he's gone up ter
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 257
de railroad track," he said, when he had returned to
the front of the house. "I'll run up dere an' fetch
" Yes, do, Peter," returned the colonel. " He's probably
all right, but you'd better see about him."
Little Phil, seeing his father absorbed in the newspaper,
and not wishing to disturb him, had amused himself by
going to the gate and looking down the street toward the
railroad track. He had been doing this scarcely a moment,
when he saw a black cat come out of a neighbour's gate
and go down the street.
Phil instantly recalled Uncle Peter's story of the black
cat. Perhaps this was the same one!
Phil had often been warned about the railroad.
"Keep 'way f'm dat railroad track, honey," the old man
had repeated more than once. "It's as dange'ous as a
gun, and a gun is dange'ous widout lock, stock, er bairl :
I knowed a man oncet w'at beat 'is wife ter def wid a
ramrod, an' wuz hung fer it in a' ole fiel' down by de
ha'nted house. Dat gun could n't hoi' powder ner shot,
but was dange'ous 'nuff ter kill two folks. So you jes'
better keep 'way f'm dat railroad track, chile."
But Phil was a child, with the making of a man, and the
wisest of men sometimes forget. For the moment Phil
saw nothing but the cat, and wished for nothing more than
to talk to it.
So Phil, unperceived by the colonel, set out to overtake
the black cat. The cat seemed in no hurry, and Phil
had very nearly caught up with him — or her, as the case
might be — when the black cat, having reached the rail-
road siding, walked under a flat car which stood there,
and leaping to one of the truck bars, composed itself,
presumably for a nap. In order to get close enough to
the cat for conversational purposes, Phil stooped under
258 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
the overhanging end of the car, and kneeled down beside
"Kitty, Kitty!" he called, invitingly.
The black cat opened her big yellow eyes with every
evidence of lazy amiability.
Peter shuffled toward the corner as fast as his rickety
old limbs would carry him. When he reached the corner
he saw a car standing on the track. There was a brake-
man at one end, holding a coupling link in one hand,
and a coupling pin in the other, his eye on an engine
and train of cars only a rod or two away, advancing
to pick up the single car. At the same moment Peter
caught sight of little Phil, kneeling under the car at the
Peter shouted, but the brakeman was absorbed in his
own task, which required close attention in order to
assure his own safety. The engineer on the cab, at the
other end of the train, saw an old Negro excitedly gesticu-
lating, and pulled a lever mechanically, but too late to
stop the momentum of the train, which was not equipped
with air brakes, even if these would have proved effective
to stop it in so short a distance.
Just before the two cars came together, Peter threw
himself forward to seize the child. As he did so, the cat
sprang from the truck bar; the old man stumbled over
the cat, and fell across the rail. The car moved only a
few feet, but quite far enough to work injury.
A dozen people, including the train crew, quickly
gathered. Willing hands drew them out and laid them
upon the grass under the spreading elm at the corner
of the street. A judge, a merchant and a Negro labourer
lifted old Peter's body as tenderly as though it had been
that of a beautiful woman. The colonel, somewhat
uneasy, he scarcely knew why, had started to limp pain-
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 259
fully toward the corner, when he was met by a messenger
who informed him of the accident. Forgetting his pain,
he hurried to the scene, only to find his heart's delight
lying pale, bleeding and unconscious, beside the old
Negro who had sacrificed his life to save him.
A doctor, who had been hastily summoned, pronounced
Peter dead. Phil showed no superficial injury, save a
cut upon the head, from which the bleeding was soon
stanched. A Negro's strong arms bore the child to the
house, while the bystanders remained about Peter's
body until the arrival of Major McLean, recently elected
coroner, who had been promptly notified of the accident.
Within a few minutes after the officer's appearance, a
jury was summoned from among the bystanders, the evi-
dence of the trainmen and several other witnesses was
taken, and a verdict of accidental death rendered. There
was no suggestion of blame attaching to any one; it had
been an accident, pure and simple, which ordinary and
reasonable prudence could not have foreseen.
By the colonel's command, the body of his old servant
was then conveyed to the house and laid out in the front
parlour. Every honour, every token of respect, should
be paid to his remains.
Meanwhile the colonel, forgetting his own hurt, hov-
ered, with several physicians, among them Doctor Price,
around the bedside of his child. The slight cut upon the
head, the physicians declared, was not, of itself, sufficient
to account for the rapid sinking which set in shortly after
the boy's removal to the house. There had evidently
been some internal injury, the nature of which could not
be ascertained. Phil remained unconscious for several
hours, but toward the end of the day opened his blue
eyes and fixed them upon his father, who was sitting by
"Papa," he said, "am I going to die?"
"No, no, Phil," said his father hopefully. "You are
going to get well in a few days, I hope."
Phil was silent for a moment, and looked around him
curiously. He gave no sign of being in pain.
"Is Miss Laura here?"
"Yes, Phil, she's in the next room, and will be here in
At that instant Miss Laura came in and kissed him.
The caress gave him pleasure, and he smiled sweetly in
"Papa, was Uncle Peter hurt?"
" Where is he, papa ? Was he hurt badly ? "
"He is lying in another room, Phil, but he is not in any
"Papa," said Phil, after a pause, "if I should die, and
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 261
if Uncle Peter should die, you'll remember your promise
and bury him near me, won't you, dear ? "
"Yes, Phil," he said, "but you are not going to die!"
But Phil died, dozing off into a peaceful sleep in which
he passed quietly away with a smile upon his face.
It required all the father's fortitude to sustain the blow,
with the added agony of self-reproach that he himself
had been unwittingly the cause of it. Had he not sent old
Peter into the house, the child would not have been left
alone. Had he kept his eye upon Phil until Peter's return
the child would not have strayed away. He had neglected
his child, while the bruised and broken old black man
in the room below had given his life to save him. He
could do nothing now to show the child his love or Peter
his gratitude, and the old man had neither wife nor child
in whom the colonel's bounty might find an object. But
he would do what he could. He would lay his child's
body in the old family lot in the cemetery, among the
bones of his ancestors, and there too, close at hand,
old Peter should have honourable sepulture. It was
his due, and would be the fulfilment of little Phil's last
The child was laid out in the parlour, amid a mass of
flowers. Miss Laura, for love of him and of the colonel,
with her own hands prepared his little body for the last
sleep. The undertaker, who hovered around, wished,
with a conventional sense of fitness, to remove old Peter's
body to a back room. But the colonel said no.
"They died together; together they shall lie here, and
they shall be buried together."
He gave instructions as to the location of the graves
in the cemetery lot. The undertaker looked thoughtful.
"I hope, sir," said the undertaker, "there will be no
objection. It's not customary — there's a coloured grave-
262 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
yard — you might put up a nice tombstone there — and
you've been away from here a long time, sir."
"If any one objects," said the colonel, "send him to
me. The lot is mine, and I shall do with it as I like.
My great-great-grandfather gave the cemetery to the town.
Old Peter's skin was black, but his heart was white as any
man's ! And when a man reaches the grave, he is not far
from God, who is no respecter of persons, and in whose
presence, on the judgment day, many a white man shall
be black, and many a black man white."
The funeral was set for the following afternoon. The
graves were to be dug in the morning. The undertaker,
whose business was dependent upon public favour, and
who therefore shrank from any step which might affect
his own popularity, let it be quietly known that Colonel
French had given directions to bury Peter in Oak Ceme-
It was inevitable that there should be some question
raised about so novel a proceeding. The colour line in
Clarendon, as in all Southern towns, was, on the surface
at least, rigidly drawn, and extended from the cradle to
the grave. No Negro's body had ever profaned the sacred
soil of Oak Cemetery. The protestants laid the matter
before the Cemetery trustees, and a private meeting was
called in the evening to consider the proposed interment.
White and black worshipped the same God, in different
churches. There had been a time when coloured people
filled the galleries of the white churches, and white ladies
had instilled into black children the principles of religion
and good morals. But as white and black had grown
nearer to each other in condition, they had grown farther
apart in feeling. It was difficult for the poor lady, for
instance, to patronise the children of the well-to-do
Negro or mulatto; nor was the latter inclined to look up
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 263
to white people who had started, in his memory, from a
position but little higher than his own. In an era of
change, the benefits gained thereby seemed scarcely to
offset the difficulties of readjustment.
The situation was complicated by a sense of injury on
both sides. Cherishing their theoretical equality of citizen-
ship, which they could neither enforce nor forget, the
Negroes resented, noisly or silently, as prudence dictated,
its contemptuous denial by the whites; and these, viewing
this shadowy equality as an insult to themselves, had
sought by all the machinery of local law to emphasise
and perpetuate their own superiority. The very word
"equality" was an offence. Society went back to Egypt
and India for its models; to break caste was a greater
sin than to break any or all of the ten commandments.
White and coloured children studied the same books in
different schools. White and black people rode on the
same trains in separate cars. Living side by side, and
meeting day by day, the law, made and administered by
white men, had built a wall between them.
And white and black buried their dead in separate
graveyards. Not until they reached God's presence could
they stand side by side in any relation of equality. There
was a Negro graveyard in Clarendon, where, as a matter
of course the coloured dead were buried. It was not an
ideal locality. The land was low and swampy, and graves
must be used quickly, ere the water collected in them. The
graveyard was unfenced, and vagrant cattle browsed upon
its rank herbage. The embankment of the railroad en-
croached upon one side of it, and the passing engines
sifted cinders and ashes over the graves. But no Negro
had ever thought of burying his dead elsewhere, and if
their cemetery was not well kept up, whose fault was it
but their own?
264 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
The proposition, therefore, of a white man, even of
Colonel French's standing, to bury a Negro in Oak Ceme-
tery, was bound to occasion comment, if nothing more.
There was indeed more. Several citizens objected to the
profanation, and laid their protest before the mayor, who
quietly called a meeting of the board of cemetery trustees,
of which he was the chairman.
The trustees were five in number. The board, with the
single exception of the mayor, was self -perpetuating, and
the members had been chosen, as vacancies occurred by
death, at long intervals, from among the aristocracy, who
had always controlled it. The mayor, a member and
chairman of the board by virtue of his office, had
sprung from the same class as Fetters, that of the aspiring
poor whites, who, freed from the moral incubus of
slavery, had by force of numbers and ambition secured
political control of the State and relegated not only the
Negroes, but the old master class, to political obscurity.
A shrewd, capable man was the mayor, who despised
Negroes and distrusted aristocrats, and had the courage
of his convictions. He represented in the meeting the
protesting element of the community.
"Gentlemen," he said, "Colonel French has ordered
this Negro to be buried in Oak Cemetery. We all appre-
ciate the colonel's worth, and what he is doing for the
town. But he has lived at the North for many years,
and has got somewhat out of our way of thinking. We do
not want to buy the prosperity of this town at the price of
our principles. The attitude of the white people on the
Negro question is fixed and determined for all time, and
nothing can ever alter it. To bury this Negro in Oak
Cemetery is against our principles."
"The mayor's statement of the rule is quite correct,"
replied old General Thornton, a member of the board,
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 265
"and not open to question. But all rules have their
exceptions. It was against the law, for some years before
the war, to manumit a slave; but an exception to that
salutary rule was made in case a Negro should render
some great service to the State or the community. You
will recall that when, in a sister State, a Negro climbed
the steep roof of St. Michael's church and at the risk of
his own life saved that historic structure, the pride of
Charleston, from destruction by fire, the muncipality
granted him his freedom."
"And we all remember," said Mr. Darden, another of
the trustees, "we all remember, at least I'm sure General
Thornton does, old Sally, who used to belong to the
McRae family, and was a member of the Presbyterian
Church, and who, because of her age and infirmities —
she was hard of hearing and too old to climb the stairs
to the gallery — was given a seat in front of the pulpit, on
the main floor."
"That was all very well," replied the mayor, stoutly,
"when the Negroes belonged to you, and never questioned
your authority. But times are different now. They
think themselves as good as we are. We had them pretty
well in hand until Colonel French came around, with his
schools, and his high wages, and now they are getting so
fat and sassy that there'll soon be no living with them.
The last election did something, but we'll have to do some-
thing more, and that soon, to keep them in their places.
There's one in jail now, alive, who has shot and disfigured
and nearly killed two good white men, and such an example
of social equality as burying one in a white graveyard will
demoralise them still further. We must preserve the
purity and prestige of our race, and we can only do it by
keeping the Negroes down."
"After all," said another member, "the purity of our
266 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
race is not apt to suffer very seriously from the social
equality of a graveyard."
"And old Peter will be pretty effectually kept down,
wherever he is buried," added another.
These sallies provoked a smile which lightened the
tension. A member suggested that Colonel French be
"It seems a pity to disturb him in his grief," said
"It's only a couple of squares," suggested another.
"Let's call in a body and pay our respects. We can
bring up the matter incidentally, while there."
The muscles of the mayor's chin hardened.
"Colonel French has never been at my house," he said,
"and I shouldn't care to seem to intrude."
" Come on, mayor," said Mr. Darden, taking the official
by the arm, "these fine distinctions are not becoming in
the presence of death. The colonel will be glad to see
The mayor could not resist this mark of intimacy on
the part of one of the old aristocracy, and walked some-
what proudly through the street arm in arm with Mr.
Darden. They paid their respects to the colonel, who
was bearing up, with the composure to be expected of a
man of strong will and forceful character, under a grief
of which he was exquisitely sensible. Touched by a strong
man's emotion, which nothing could conceal, no one had
the heart to mention, in the presence of the dead, the object
of their visit, and they went away without giving the colonel
any inkling that his course had been seriously criticised.
Nor was the meeting resumed after they left the house,
even the mayor seeming content to let the matter go by
Fortune favoured Caxton in the matter of the note.
Fetters was in Clarendon the following morning. Caxton
saw him passing, called him into his office, and produced
"That's no good," said Fetters contemptuously. "It
was outlawed yesterday. I suppose you allowed I'd
forgotten it. On the contrary, I've a memorandum of it
in my pocketbook, and I struck it off the list last night.
I always pay my lawful debts, when they're properly
demanded. If this note had been presented yesterday,
I'd have paid it. To-day it's too late. It ain't a lawful
"Do you really mean to say, Mr. Fetters, that you have
deliberately robbed those poor women of this money all
these years, and are not ashamed of it, not even when
you're found out, and that you are going to take refuge
behind the statute?"
"Now, see here, Mr. Caxton," returned Fetters, without
apparent emotion, "you want to be careful about the
language you use. I might sue you for slander. You're
a young man, that hopes to have a future and live in this
county, where I expect to live and have law business done
long after some of your present clients have moved away.
I didn't owe the estate of John Treadwell one cent — you
ought to be lawyer enough to know that. He owed me
money, and paid me with a note. I collected the note. I
owed him money and paid it with a note. Whoever heard
of anybody's paying a note that wasn't presented?"
268 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"It's a poor argument, Mr. Fetters. You would have
let those ladies starve to death before you would have come
forward and paid that debt."
"They've never asked me for charity, so I wasn't called
on to offer it. And you know now, don't you, that if I'd
paid the amount of that note, and then it had turned up
afterward in somebody else's hands, I'd have had to pay it
over again; now wouldn't I?"
Caxton could not deny it. Fetters had robbed the Tread-
well estate, but his argument was unanswerable.
"Yes," said Caxton, "I suppose you would."
"I'm sorry for the women," said Fetters, "and I've
stood ready to pay that note all these years, and it ain't my
fault that it hasn't been presented. Now it's outlawed,
and you couldn't expect a man to just give away that much
money. It ain't a lawful debt, and the law's good enough
"You're awfully sorry for the ladies, aren't you?" said
Caxton, with thinly veiled sarcasm.
"I surely am; I'm honestly sorry for them."
"And you'd pay the note if you had to, wouldn't you ?"
"I surely would. As I say, I always pay my legal
"All right," said Caxton triumphantly, "then you'll pay
this. I filed suit against you yesterday, which takes the
case out of the statute."
Fetters concealed his discomfiture.
"Well," he said, with quiet malignity, "I've nothing
more to say till I consult my lawyer. But I want to tell
you one thing. You are ruining a fine career by standing
in with this Colonel French. I hear his son was killed
to-day. You can tell him I say it's a judgment on him;
for I hold him responsible for my son's condition. He
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 269
came down here and tried to demoralise the labour mar-
ket. He put false notions in the niggers' heads. Then he
got to meddling with my business, trying to get away a
nigger whose time I had bought. He insulted my agent
Turner, and came all the way down to Sycamore and tried
to bully me into letting the nigger loose, and of course I
wouldn't be bullied. Afterwards, when I offered to let
the nigger go, the colonel wouldn't have it so. I shall
always believe he bribed one of my men to get the nigger
off, and then turned him loose to run amuck among the
white people and shoot my boy and my overseer. It was
a low-down performance, and unworthy of a gentleman.
No really white man would treat another white man so.
You can tell him I say it's a judgment that's fallen on him
to-day, and that it's not the last one, and that he'll be
sorrier yet that he didn't stay where he was, with his
nigger-lovin' notions, instead of comin' back down here to
make trouble for people that have grown up with the
State and made it what it is."
Caxton, of course, did not deliver the message. To do
so would have been worse taste than Fetters had displayed
in sending it. Having got the best of the encounter, Cax-
ton had no objection to letting his defeated antagonist dis-
charge his venom against the absent colonel, who would
never know of it, and who was already breasting the waves
of a sorrow so deep and so strong as almost to overwhelm
him. For he had loved the boy; all his hopes had centred
around this beautiful man child, who had promised so much
that was good. His own future had been planned with
reference to him. Now he was dead, and the bereaved
father gave way to his grief.
The funeral took place next day, from the Episcopal
Church, in which communion the little boy had been
baptised, and of which old Peter had always been an
humble member, faithfully appearing every Sunday
morning in his seat in the gallery, long after the rest of his
people had deserted it for churches of their own. On this
occasion Peter had, for the first time, a place on the main
floor, a little to one side of the altar, in front of which,
banked with flowers, stood the white velvet casket which
contained all that was mortal of little Phil. The same
beautiful sermon answered for both. In touching words,
the rector, a man of culture, taste and feeling, and a faith-
ful servant of his Master, spoke of the sweet young life
brought to so untimely an end, and pointed the bereaved
father to the best source of consolation. He paid a brief
tribute to the faithful servant and humble friend, to whom,
though black and lowly, the white people of the town were
glad to pay this signal tribute of respect and appreciation
for his heroic deed. The attendance at the funeral, while
it might have been larger, was composed of the more refined
and cultured of the townspeople, from whom, indeed, the
church derived most of its membership and support; and
the gallery overflowed with coloured people, whose hearts
had warmed to the great honour thus paid to one of their
race. Four young white men bore Phil's body and the
six pallbearers of old Peter were from among the best
white people of the town.
The double interment was made in Oak Cemetery.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 271
Simultaneously both bodies were lowered to their last
resting-place. Simultaneously ashes were consigned to
ashes and dust to dust. The earth was heaped above the
graves. The mound above little Phil's was buried with
flowers, and old Peter's was not neglected. *
Beyond the cemetery wall, a few white men of the com-
moner sort watched the proceedings from a distance, and
eyed with grim hostility the Negroes who had followed the
procession. They had no part nor parcel in this senti-
mental folly, nor did they approve of it — in fact they dis-
approved of it very decidedly. Among them was the
colonel's discharged foreman, Jim Green, who was pro-
nounced in his denunciation.
"Colonel French is an enemy of his race," he declared
to his sympathetic following. "He hires niggers when
white men are idle, and pays them more than white men
who work are earning. And now he is burying them with
When the group around the grave began to disperse, the
little knot of disgruntled spectators moved sullenly away.
In the evening they might have been seen, most of them,
around Clay Jackson's barroom. Turner, the foreman
at Fetters's convict farm, was in town that evening, and
Jackson's was his favourite haunt. For some reason
Turner was more sociable than usual, and liquor flowed
freely, at his expense. There was a great deal of intem-
perate talk, concerning the Negro in jail for shooting
Haines and young Fetters, and concerning Colonel French
as the protector of Negroes and the enemy of white men.
At the same time that the colonel, dry-eyed and heavy-
hearted, had returned to his empty house to nurse his grief,
another series of events was drawing to a climax in the
dilapidated house on Mink Run. Even while the preacher
was saying the last words over little Phil's remains, old
Malcolm Dudley's illness had taken a sudden and violent
turn. He had been sinking for several days, but the
decline had been gradual, and there had seemed no par-
ticular reason for alarm. But during the funeral exercises
Ben had begun to feel uneasy — some obscure premonition
warned him to hurry homeward.
As soon as the funeral was over he spoke to Dr. Price,
who had been one of the pallbearers, and the doctor had
promised to be at Mink Run in a little while. Ben rode
home as rapidly as he could; as he went up the lane toward
the house a Negro lad came forward to take charge of the
tired horse, and Ben could see from the boy's expression
that he had important information to communicate.
"Yo' uncle is monst'ous low, sir," said the boy. "You
bettah go in an' see 'im quick, er you'll be too late. Dey
am* nobody wid 'im but ole Aun' Viney."
Ben hurried into the house and to his uncle's room,
where Malcolm Dudley lay dying. Outside, the sun was
setting, and his red rays, shining through the trees into the
open window, lit the stage for the last scene of this belated
drama. When Ben entered the room, the sweat of death
had gathered on the old man's brow, but his eyes, clear
with the light of reason, were fixed upon old Viney, who
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 273
stood by the bedside. The two were evidently so absorbed
in their own thoughts as to be oblivious to anything else,
and neither of them paid the slightest attention to Ben,
or to the scared Negro lad, who had followed him and
stood outside the door. But marvellous to hear, Viney
was talking, strangely, slowly, thickly, but passionately
"You had me whipped," she said. "Do you remember
that? You had me whipped — whipped — whipped — by a
poor white dog I had despised and spurned! You had
said that you loved me, and you had promised to free me —
and you had me whipped! But I have had my revenge!"
Her voice shook with passion, a passion at which Ben
wondered. That his uncle and she had once been young
he knew, and that their relations had once been closer than
those of master and servant; but this outbreak of feeling
from the wrinkled old mulattress seemed as strange and
weird to Ben as though a stone image had waked to speech.
Spellbound, he stood in the doorway, and listened to this
ghost of a voice long dead.
"Your uncle came with the money and left it, and went
away. Only he and I knew where it was. But I never
told you ! I could have spoken at any time for twenty-five
years, but I never told you ! I have waited — I have waited
for this moment! I have gone into the woods and fields
and talked to myself by the hour, that I might not forget
how to talk — and I have waited my turn, and it is here
Ben hung breathlessly upon her words. He drew back
beyond her range of vision,lest she might see him, and the
spell be broken. Now, he thought, she would tell where
the gold was hidden!
"He came," she said, "and left the gold — two heavy
bags of it, and a letter for you. An hour later he came
274 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
back and took it all away, except the letter! The money
was here one hour, but in that hour you had me whipped,
and for that you have spent twenty-five years in looking
for nothing — something that was not here! I have had
my revenge! For twenty-five years I have watched you
look for — nothing; have seen you waste your time, your
property, your life, your mind — for nothing! For ah,
Mars' Ma'colm, you had me whipped — by another man! "
A shadow of reproach crept into the old man's eyes,
over which the mists of death were already gathering.
"Yes, Viney," he whispered, "you have had your
revenge! But I was sorry, Viney, for what I did, and
you were not. And I forgive you, Viney; but you are
unforgiving — even in the presence of death."
His voice failed, and his eyes closed for the last time.
When she saw that he was dead, by a strange revulsion
of feeling the wall of outraged pride and hatred and
revenge, built upon one brutal and bitterly repented mis-
take, and labouriously maintained for half a lifetime in
her woman's heart that even slavery could not crush,
crumbled and fell and let pass over it in one great and final
flood the pent-up passions of the past. Bursting into tears
— strange tears from eyes that had long forgot to weep —
old Viney threw herself down upon her knees by the
bedside, and seizing old Malcolm's emaciated hand in both
her own, covered it' with kisses, fervent kisses, the ghosts
of the passionate kisses of their distant youth.
With a feeling that his presence was something like
sacrilege, Ben stole away and left her with her dead — the
dead master and the dead past — and thanked God that
he lived in another age, and had escaped this sin.
As he wandered through the old house, a veil seemed to
fall from his eyes. How old everything was, how shrunken
and decaYed! The sheen of the hidden gold had gilded
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 275
the dilapidated old house, the neglected plantation, his
own barren life. Now that it was gone, things appeared
in their true light. Fortunately he was young enough to
retrieve much of what had been lost. When the old man
was buried, he would settle the estate, sell the land, make
some provision for Aunt Viney, and then, with what was
left, go out into the world and try to make a place for him-
self and Graciella. For life intrudes its claims even into
the presence of death.
When the doctor came, a little later, Ben went with him
into the death chamber. Viney was still kneeling by her
master's bedside, but strangely still and silent. The
doctor laid his hand on hers and old Malcolm's, which had
remained clasped together.
"They are both dead," he declared. "I knew their
story; my father told it to me many years ago."
Ben related what he had overheard.
"I'm not surprised," said the doctor. "My father
attended her when she had the stroke, and after. He
always maintained that Viney could speak — if she had
wished to speak."
The colonel's eyes were heavy with grief that night, and
yet he lay awake late, and with his sorrow were mingled
many consoling thoughts. The people, his people, had
been kind, aye, more than kind. Their warm hearts had
sympathised with his grief. He had sometimes been
impatient of their conservatism, their narrowness, their
unreasoning pride of opinion; but in his bereavement
they had manifested a feeling that it would be beautiful
to remember all the days of his life. All the people, white
and black, had united to honour his dead.
He had wished to help them — had tried already. He
had loved the town as the home of his ancestors, which
enshrined their ashes. He would make of it a monument
to mark his son's resting place. His fight against Fetters
and what he represented should take on a new character;
henceforward it should be a crusade to rescue from
threatened barbarism the land which contained the tombs
of his loved ones. Nor would he be alone in the struggle,
which he now clearly foresaw would be a long one.
The dear, good woman he had asked to be his wife could
help him. He needed her clear, spiritual vision; and in
his lifelong sorrow he would need her sympathy and com-
panionship; for she had loved the child and would share
his grief. She knew the people better than he, and was
in closer touch with them; she could help him in his schemes
of benevolence, and suggest new ways to benefit the people.
Phil's mother was buried far away, among her own people;
could he consult her, he felt sure she would prefer to remain
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 277
there. Here she would be an alien note; and when Laura
died she could lie with them and still be in her own place.
"Have you heard the news, sir," asked the housekeeper,
when he came down to breakfast the next morning.
"No, Mrs. Hughes, what is it?"
"They lynched the Negro who was in jail for shooting
young Mr. Fetters and the other man."
The colonel hastily swallowed a cup of coffee and went
down town. It was only a short walk. Already there
were excited crowds upon the street, discussing the events
of the night. The colonel sought Caxton, who was just
entering his office.
"They've done it," said the lawyer.
"So I understand. When did it happen?"
"About one o'clock last night. A crowd came in from
Sycamore — not all at once, but by twos and threes, and
got together in Clay Johnson's saloon, with Ben Green,
your discharged foreman, and a lot of other riffraff, and
went to the sheriff, and took the keys, and took Johnson
and carried him out to where the shooting was, and "
"Spare me the details. He is dead?"
A rope, a tree — a puff of smoke, a flash of flame — or a
barbaric orgy of fire and blood — what matter which?
At the end there was a lump of clay, and a hundred mur-
derers where there had been one before.
"Can we do anything to punish this crime?"
"We can try."
And they tried. The colonel went to the sheriff. The
sheriff said he had yielded to force, but he never would
have dreamed of shooting to defend a worthless Negro
who had maimed a good white man, had nearly killed
another, and had declared a vendetta against the white
278 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
By noon the colonel had interviewed as many prominent
men as he could find, and they became increasingly diffi-
cult to find as it became known that he was seeking them.
The town, he said, had been disgraced, and should redeem
itself by prosecuting the lynchers. He may as well have
talked to the empty air. The trail of Fetters was all over
the town. Some of the officials owed Fetters money;
others were under political obligations to him. Others
were plainly of the opinion that the Negro got no more
than he deserved; such a wretch was not fit to live. The
coroner's jury returned a verdict of suicide, a grim joke
which evoked some laughter. Doctor McKenzie, to
whom the colonel expressed his feelings, and whom he
asked to throw the influence of his church upon the
side of law and order, said:
"It is too bad. I am sorry, but it is done. Let it
rest. No good can ever come of stirring it up further."
Later in the day there came news that the lynchers,
after completing their task, had proceeded to the Dudley
plantation and whipped all the Negroes who did not learn
of their coming in time to escape, the claim being that
Johnson could not have maintained himself in hiding
without their connivance, and that they were therefore
parties to his crimes.
The colonel felt very much depressed when he went to
bed that night, and lay for a long time turning over in
his mind the problem that confronted him.
So far he had been beaten, except in the matter of the
cotton mill, which was yet unfinished. His efforts in
Bud Johnson's behalf — the only thing he had undertaken
to please the woman he loved, had proved abortive. His
promise to the teacher — well, he had done his part, but
to no avail. He would be ashamed to meet Taylor face
to face. With what conscience could a white man in
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 279
Clarendon ever again ask a Negro to disclose the name
or hiding place of a coloured criminal ? In the effort to
punish the lynchers he stood, to all intents and purposes,
single-handed and alone; and without the support of public
opinion he could do nothing.
The colonel was beaten, but not dismayed. Perhaps
God in his wisdom had taken Phil away, that his father
might give himself more completely and single-mindedly
to the battle before him. Had Phil lived, a father might
have hesitated to expose a child's young and impression-
able mind to the things which these volcanic outbursts
of passion between mismated races might cause at any
unforeseen moment. Now that the way was clear, he
could go forward, hand in hand with the good woman
who had promised to wed him, in the work he had laid
out. He would enlist good people to demand better laws,
under which Fetters and his kind would find it harder to
prey upon the weak.
Diligently he would work to lay wide and deep the
foundations of prosperity, education and enlightenment,
upon which should rest justice, humanity and civic
righteousness. In this he would find a worthy career.
Patiently would he await the results of his labours, and if
they came not in great measure in his own lifetime, he
would be content to know that after years would see
their full fruition.
So that night he sat down and wrote a long answer to
Kirby's letter, in which he told him of Phil's death and
burial, and his own grief. Something there was, too, of
his plans for the future, including his marriage to a good
woman who would help him in them. Kirby, he said,
had offered him a golden opportunity for which he thanked
him heartily. The scheme was good enough for any one
to venture upon. But to carry out his own plans, would
280 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
require that he invest his money in the State of his resi-
dence, where there were many openings for capital that
could afford to wait upon development for large returns.
He sent his best regards to Mrs. Jerviss, and his assurance
that Kirby's plan was a good one. Perhaps Kirby and
she alone could handle it; if not, there must be plenty
of money elsewhere for so good a thing.
He sealed the letter, and laid it aside to be mailed in
the morning. To his mind it had all the force of a final
renunciation, a severance of the last link that bound him
to his old life.
Long the colonel lay thinking, after he retired to rest,
and the muffled striking of the clock downstairs had
marked the hour of midnight ere he fell asleep. And he
had scarcely dozed away, when he was awakened by a
scraping noise, as though somewhere in the house a heavy
object was being drawn across the floor. The sound
was not repeated, however, and thinking it some trick
of the imagination, he soon slept again.
As the colonel slept this second time, he dreamed of a
regenerated South, filled with thriving industries, and
thronged with a prosperous and happy people, where
every man, having enough for his needs, was willing that
every other man should have the same; where law and
order should prevail unquestioned, and where every man
could enter, through the golden gate of hope, the field
of opportunity, where lay the prizes of life, which all
might have an equal chance to win or lose.
For even in his dreams the colonel's sober mind did
not stray beyond the bounds of reason and experience.
That all men would ever be equal he did not even dream;
there would always be the strong and the weak, the wise
and the foolish. But that each man, in his little life in
this our little world might be able to make the most of
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 281
himself, was an ideal which even the colonel's waking
hours would not have repudiated.
Following this pleasing thread with the unconscious
rapidity of dreams, the colonel passed, in a few brief
minutes, through a long and useful life to a happy end,
when he too rested with his fathers, by the side of his son,
and on his tomb was graven what was said of Ben Adhem :
"Here lies one who loved his fellow men," and the further
words, "and tried to make them happy."
Shortly after dawn there was a loud rapping a- the
"Come downstairs and look on de piazza, Colonel,"
said the agitated voice of the servant who had knocked.
"Come quick, suh."
There was a vague terror in the man's voice that stirred
the colonel strangely. He threw on a dressing gown and
hastened downstairs, and to the front door of the hall,
which stood open. A handsome mahogany burial casket,
stained with earth and disfigured by rough handling,
rested upon the floor of the piazza, where it had been
deposited during the night. Conspicuously nailed to
the coffin lid was a sheet of white paper, upon which were
some lines rudely scrawled in a handwriting that matched
Kurnell French: Take notis. Berry yore ole
nigger somewhar else. He can't stay in Oak Semi-
tury. The majority of the white people of this
town, who dident tend yore nigger funarl, woant
have him there. Niggers by there selves, white
peepul by there selves, and them that lives in our
town must bide by our rules. By order of
282 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
The colonel left the coffin standing on the porch, where
it remained all day, an object of curious interest to the
scores and hundreds who walked by to look at it, for the
news spread quickly through the town. No one, however,
came in. If there were those who reprobated the action
they were silent. The mob spirit, which had broken
out in the lynching of Johnson, still dominated the town,
and no one dared to speak against it.
As soon as Colonel French had dressed and break-
fasted, he drove over to the cemetery. Those who had
exhumed old Peter's remains had not been unduly careful.
The carelessly excavated earth had been scattered here
and there over the lot. The flowers on old Peter's grave
and that of little Phil had been trampled under foot —
whether wantonly or not, inevitably, in the execution of
the ghoulish task.
The colonel's heart hardened as he stood by his son's
grave. Then he took a long lingering look at the tombs
of his ancestors and turned away with an air of finality.
From the cemetery he went to the undertaker's, and left
an order; thence to the telegraph office, from which he sent
a message to his former partner in New York; and thence
to the Treadwells'.
Miss Laura came forward with outstretched hands
and tear-stained eyes to greet him.
"Henry," she exclaimed, "I am shocked and sorry,
I cannot tell you how much! Nor do I know what else
to say, except that the best people do not — cannot — could
not — approve of it!"
"The best people, Laura," he said with a weary smile,
"are an abstraction. When any deviltry is on foot they
are never there to prevent it — they vanish into thin air
at its approach. When it is done, they excuse it; and they
make no effort to punish it. So it is not too much to say
that what they permit they justify, and they cannot shirk
the responsibility. To mar the living — it is the history
of life — but to make war upon the dead! — I am going
away, Laura, never to return. My dream of usefulness
is over. To-night I take away my dead and shake the
dust of Clarendon from my feet forever. Will you come
"Henry," she said, and each word tore her heart, "I
have been expecting this — since I heard. But I cannot
go; my duty calls me here. My mother could not be
happy anywhere else, nor would I fit into any other life.
And here, too, I am useful — and may still be useful — and
should be missed. I know your feelings, and would not
try to keep you. But, oh, Henry, if all of those who love
justice and practise humanity should go away, what would
become of us?"
284 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"I leave to-night," he returned, "and it is your right
to go with me, or to come to me."
"No, Henry, nor am I sure that you would wish me to.
It was for the old town's sake that you loved me. I was
a part of your dream — a part of the old and happy past,
upon which you hoped to build, as upon the foundations
of the old mill, a broader and a fairer structure. Do you
remember what you told me, that night — that happy
night — that you loved me because in me you found the
embodiment of an ideal? Well, Henry, that is why I
did not wish to make our engagement known, for I knew,
I felt, the difficulty of your task, and I foresaw that you
might be disappointed, and I feared that if your ideal
should be wrecked, you might find me a burden. I loved
you, Henry — I seem to have always loved you, but I
would not burden you."
"No, no, Laura — not so! not so!"
"And you wanted me for Phil's sake, whom we both
loved; and now that your dream is over, and Phil is gone,
I should only remind you of where you lost him, and of
your disappointment, and of — this other thing, and I
could not be sure that you loved me or wanted me."
"Surely you cannot doubt it, Laura?" His voice was
firm, but to her sensitive spirit it did not carry conviction.
"You remembered me from my youth," she continued
tremulously but bravely, "and it was the image in your
memory that you loved. And now, when you go away,
the old town will shrink and fade from your memory
and your heart and you will have none but harsh thoughts
of it; nor can I blame you greatly, for you have grown far
away from us, and we shall need many years to overtake
you. Nor do you need me, Henry — I am too old to learn
new ways, and elsewhere than here I should be a hindrance
to you rather than a help. But in the larger life to which
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 285
you go, think of me now and then as one who loves you
still, and who will try, in her poor way, with such patience
as she has, to carry on the work which you have begun,
and which you — Oh, Henry!"
He divined her thought, though her tear-filled eyes
spoke sorrow rather than reproach.
"Yes," he said sadly, "which I have abandoned. Yes,
Laura, abandoned, fully and forever."
The colonel was greatly moved, but his resolution re-
"Laura," he said, taking both her hands in his, "I
swear that I should be glad to have you with me. Come
away! The place is not fit for you to live in!"
"No, Henry! it cannot be! I could not go! My duty
holds me here! God would not forgive me if I abandoned
it. Go your way; live your life. Marry some other
woman, if you must, who will make you happy. But I
shall keep, Henry — nothing can ever take aWay from me
— the memory of one happy summer."
"No, no, Laura, it need not be so! I shall write you.
You'll think better of it. But I go to-night — not one hour
longer than I must, will I remain in this town. I must
bid your mother and Graciella good-bye."
He went into the house. Mrs. Treadwell was excited
and sorry, and would have spoken at length, but the
colonel's farewells were brief.
"I cannot stop to say more than good-bye, dear Mrs.
Treadwell. I have spent a few happy months in my old
home, and now I am going away. Laura will tell you the
Graciella was tearfully indignant.
"It was a shame!" she declared. "Peter was a good
old nigger, and it wouldn't have done anybody any harm
to leave him there. I'd rather be buried beside old Peter
286 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
than near any of the poor white trash that dug him up —
so there! I'm so sorry you're going away; but I hope,
sometime," she added stoutly, "to see you in New York I
"I'll send you my address," said the colonel.
It was a few weeks later. Old Ralph Dudley and Viney
had been buried. Ben Dudley had ridden in from Mink
Run, had hitched his horse in the back yard as usual, and
was seated on the top step of the piazza beside Graciella.
His elbows rested on his knees, and his chin upon his hand.
Graciella had unconsciously imitated his drooping atti-
tude. Both were enshrouded in the deepest gloom, and
had been sunk, for several minutes, in a silence equally
profound. Graciella was the first to speak.
"Well, then," she said with a deep sigh, "there is abso-
lutely nothing left?"
"Not a thing," he groaned hopelessly, "except my
horse and my clothes, and a few odds and ends which
belong to me. Fetters will have the land — there's not
enough to pay the mortgages against it, and I'm in debt
for the funeral expenses."
"And what are you going to do ?"
"Gracious knows — I wish I did! I came over to con-
sult the family. I have no trade, no profession, no land
and no money. I can get a job at braking on the rail-
road — or may be at clerking in a store. I'd have asked
the colonel for something in the mill — but that chance
"Gone," echoed Graciella, gloomily. "I see my
fate! I shall marry you, because I can't help loving you,
and couldn't live without you; and I shall never get to
New York, but be, all my life, a poor man's wife — a poor
white man's wife."
288 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
"No, Graciella, we might be poor, but not poor-white 1
Our blood will still be of the best."
"It will be all the same. Blood without money may
count for one generation, but it won't hold out for two."
They relapsed into a gloom so profound, so rayless,
that they might almost be said to have reveled in it.
It was lightened, or at least a diversion was created
by Miss Laura's opening the garden gate and coming
up the walk. Ben rose as she approached, and Graciella
"I have been to the post-office," said Miss Laura.
" Here is a letter for you, Ben, addressed in my care. It
has the New York postmark."
"Thank you, Miss Laura."
Eagerly Ben's hand tore the envelope and drew out the
enclosure. Swiftly his eyes devoured the lines; they were
typewritten and easy to follow.
" Glory ! " he shouted, "glory hallelujah ! Listen ! "
He read the letter aloud, while Graciella leaned against
his shoulder and feasted her eyes upon the words. The
letter was from Colonel French :
"M y dear Ben: I was very much impressed with
the model of a cotton gin and press which I saw you
exhibit one day at Mrs. Treadwells'. You have a fine
genius for mechanics, and the model embodies, I think,
a clever idea, which is worth working up. If your
uncle's death has left you free to dispose of your time,
I should like to have you come on to New York with
the model, and we will take steps to have the invention
patented at once, and form a company for its manu-
facture. As an evidence of good faith, I enclose my
draft for five hundred dollars, which can be properly
accounted for in our future arrangements."
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 289
"O Ben!" gasped Graciella, in one long drawn out,
"O Graciella!" exclaimed Ben, as he threw his arms
around her and kissed her rapturously, regardless of Miss
Laura's presence. " Now you can go to New York as soon
as you like!"
Colonel French took his dead to the North, and buried
both the little boy and the old servant in the same lot with
his young wife, and in the shadow of the stately mausoleum
which marked her resting-place. There, surrounded by
the monuments of the rich and the great, in a beautiful
cemetery, which overlooks a noble harbour where the ships
of all nations move in endless procession, the body of the
faithful servant rests beside that of the dear little child
whom he unwittingly lured to his death and then died in
the effort to save. And in all the great company of those
who have laid their dead there in love or in honour, there
is none to question old Peter's presence or the colonel's
right to lay him there. Sometimes, at night, a ray of light
from the uplifted torch of the Statue of Liberty, the gift
of a free people to a free people, falls athwart the white
stone which marks his resting place — fit prophecy and
omen of the day when the sun of liberty shall shine alike
upon all men.
When the colonel went away from Clarendon, he left his
affairs in Caxton's hands, with instructions to settle them
up as expeditiously as possible. The cotton mill project
was dropped, and existing contracts closed on the best
terms available. Fetters paid the old note — even he
would not have escaped odium for so bare-faced a rob-
bery — and Mrs. Tread well's last days could be spent in
comfort and Miss Laura saved from any fear for her future,
and enabled to give more freely to the poor and needy
Barclay Fetters recovered the use of one eye, and embit-
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 291
tered against the whole Negro race by his disfigurement,
went into public life and devoted his talents and his edu-
cation to their debasement. The colonel had relented
sufficiently to contemplate making over to Miss Laura the
old family residence in trust for use as a hospital, with a
suitable fund for its maintenance, but it unfortunately
caught fire and burned down — and he was hardly sorry.
He sent Catherine, Bud Johnson's wife, a consider-
able sum of money, and she bought a gorgeous suit of
mourning, and after a decent interval consoled herself
with a new husband. And he sent word to the com-
mittee of coloured men to whom he had made a
definite promise, that he would be ready to fulfil his
obligation in regard to their school whenever they
should have met the conditions.
One day, a year or two after leaving Clarendon, the
colonel, in company with Mrs. French, formerly a member
of his firm, now his partner in a double sense — was riding
upon a fast train between New York and Chicago, upon
a trip to visit a western mine in which the reorganised
French and Company, Limited, were interested, he noticed
that the Pullman car porter, a tall and stalwart Negro,
was watching him furtively from time to time. Upon one
occasion, when the colonel was alone in the smoking-room,
the porter addressed him.
"Excuse me, suh," he said, "I've been wondering ever
since we left New York, if you wa'n't Colonel French ?"
"Yes, I'm Mr. French — Colonel French, if you want
"I 'lowed it must be you, suh, though you've changed
the cut of your beard, and are looking a little older, suh. I
don't suppose you remember me?"
"I've seen you somewhere," said the colonel — no
292 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
longer the colonel, but like the porter, let us have it so.
"Where was it?"
"I'm Henry Taylor, suh, that used to teach school at
Clarendon. I reckon you remember me now."
"Yes," said the colonel sadly, "I remember you now,
Taylor, to my sorrow. I didn't keep my word about
Johnson, did I?"
"Oh, yes, suh," replied the porter, "I never doubted
but what you'd keep your word. But you see, suh, they
were too many for you. There ain't no one man can stop
them folks down there when they once get started."
"And what are you doing here, Taylor?"
"Well, suh, the fact is that after you went away, it got
out somehow that I had told on Bud Johnson. I don't
know how they learned it, and of course I knew you
didn't tell it; but somebody must have seen me going to
your house, or else some of my enemies guessed it — and
happened to guess right — and after that the coloured
folks wouldn't send their children to me, and I lost my
job, and wasn't able to get another anywhere in the State.
The folks said I was an enemy of my race, and, what was
more important to me, I found that my race was an enemy
to me. So I got out, suh, and I came No'th, hoping to
find somethin' better. This is the best job I've struck
yet, but I'm hoping that sometime or other I'll find some-
thing worth while."
"And what became of the industrial school project?"
asked the colonel. "I've stood ready to keep my promise,
and more, but I never heard from you."
"Well, suh, after you went away the enthusiasm kind
of died out, and some of the white folks throwed cold
water on it, and it fell through, suh."
When the porter came along, before the train reached
Chicago, the colonel offered Taylor a handsome tip.
THE COLONEL'S DREAM 293
"Thank you, suh," said the porter, "but I'd rather not
take it. I'm a porter now, but I wa'n't always one, and
hope I won't always be one. And during all the time I
taught school in Clarendon, you was the only white man
that ever treated me quite like a man — and our folks just
like people — and if you won't think I'm presuming, I'd
rather not take the money."
The colonel shook hands with him, and took his address.
Shortly afterward he was able to find him something
better than menial employment, where his education
would give him an opportunity for advancement. Taylor
is fully convinced that his people will never get very far
along in the world without the good will of the white peo-
ple, but he is still wondering how they will secure it. For
he regards Colonel French as an extremely fortunate
And so the colonel faltered, and, having put his hand to
the plow, turned back. But was not his, after all, the only
way? For no more now than when the Man of Sorrows
looked out over the Mount of Olives, can men gather
grapes of thorns or figs of thistles. The seed which the
colonel sowed seemed to fall by the wayside, it is true;
but other eyes have seen with the same light, and while
Fetters and his kind still dominate their section, other
hands have taken up the fight which the colonel dropped.
In manufactures the South has gone forward by leaps and
bounds. The strong arm of the Government, guided by a
wise and just executive, has been reached out to crush
the poisonous growth of peonage, and men hitherto silent
have raised their voices to commend. Here and there
a brave judge has condemned the infamy of the chain-
gang and convict lease systems. Good men, North and
South, have banded themselves together to promote the
294 THE COLONEL'S DREAM
cause of popular education. Slowly, like all great social
changes, but visibly, to the eye of faith, is growing up a
new body of thought, favourable to just laws and their
orderly administration. In this changed attitude of mind
lies the hope of the future, the hope of the Republic.
But Clarendon has had its chance, nor seems yet to
have had another. Other towns, some not far from it,
lying nearer the main lines of travel, have been swept into
the current of modern life, but not yet Clarendon. There
the grass grows thicker in the streets. The meditative
cows still graze in the vacant lot between the post-office
and the bank, where the public library was to stand. The
old academy has grown more dilapidated than ever, and
a large section of plaster has fallen from the wall, carrying
with it the pencil drawing made in the colonel's school-
days; and if Miss Laura Treadwell sees that the graves
of the old Frenches are not allowed to grow up in weeds
and grass, the colonel knows nothing of it. The pigs and
the loafers — leaner pigs and lazier loafers — still sleep in
the shade, when the pound keeper and the constable are
not active. The limpid water of the creek still murmurs
down the slope and ripples over the stone foundation
of what was to have been the new dam, while the birds
have nested for some years in the vines that soon overgrew
the unfinished walls of the colonel's cotton mill. White
men go their way, and black men theirs, and these ways
grow wider apart, and no one knows the outcome. But
there are those who hope, and those who pray, that this
condition will pass, that some day our whole land will be
truly free, and the strong will cheerfully help to bear the
burdens of the weak, and Justice, the seed, and Peace,
the flower, of liberty, will prevail throughout all our
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